Pike Lib, Charles Henderson ready for playoff run

Published 1:29 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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Both the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots and Charles Henderson Trojans will be playing in the AHSAA State Baseball Playoffs this weekend.

In Pike’s first year as a part of the AHSAA, the Class 2A No. 10-ranked Patriots (18-9) started off the year going just 1-6 in the first month of the season before ripping off 10 straight wins and finishing off the regular season on a 17-3 run, including winning the Class 2A, Area 5 Championship. That run included a pair of wins over both Ariton and GW Long. Ariton is coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances over the last two years and Long was the No. 1-ranked team in the state at the time and the reigning 2A State Champions.

“We played a tough schedule early in the season and I think that paid us some dividends going into the back half of the year,” PLAS Coach Will Austin said. “I’m excited to see the kids come out and play and finish the year strong.”

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Leading the way at the plate this season has been junior Levi DeBoer and senior KC Bradford. Bradford boasts a .384 batting average with a .733 slugging percentage. He tallied six doubles, three triples, a team-high six home runs, 11 stolen bases, 19 RBIs and 32 runs. DeBoer earned a team-high .438 batting average with seven doubles, two homers, 15 RBIs, a team-leading 34 runs and team-high 15 stolen bases. Payne Jefcoat led the Patriots with 30 RBIs and Davis Kilcrease hit nine doubles on the year.

Luke Barron earned a 5-2 record on the mound this season with 2.625 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings, while Kade Brookins pitched 33 and 1/3 innings and retired 51 batters with a 3.780 ERA. Jefcoat earned five double plays on defense, while catcher John Lott threw out 11 runners attempting to steal bases.

Cottonwood is coming off a series loss to Wicksburg but finished as the Area 3 runner-up.

“Cottonwood is a very good team and they play the game the right way and it will be a challenge for us,” Austin said. “Anytime you play in the playoffs every team has gotten there for a reason and it’ll be a good test for us.

“Cottonwood’s entire lineup swings the bat well and puts the ball in play and has really competitive at-bats. They also have good pitchers that fill the strike zone and will challenge our guys at the plate. We have to pay attention to detail and work ahead early in the count and make the routine plays. We have to score when we need to and we have to play well in all three phases of the game; offense, defense and pitching.”

PLAS plays Cottonwood at 4 p.m. in the first game in the series on April 21 and follows with the second matchup at 7 p.m. If there is a need for a third game it will be played on April 22.

Charles Henderson (15-14) finished the season as Class 5A, Area 3 runner-up. The Trojans will play Area 5 Champion Demopolis in the opening round of the 5A State Playoffs.

The Trojans finished off the season winning three of the last four games and five of the last seven, including an area sweep of Carroll.

“The team has come a long way this year from the last few years,” Charles Henderson coach Chase Smartt said. “We have a young team and they’ve handled their day-to-day approach really well. Form practice to practice and game to game they did a really good job of being positive in everything they do.”

Catcher Damien Hart led the way for CHHS at the plate this season with a .403 batting average, .701 slugging percentage, a team-high three home runs 10 RBIs and 20 runs. Will Templin led CHHS with 23 RBIs and 12 stolen bases, while Parker Adams scored 20 runs.

Adams also led the Trojans on the mound, boasting a 3.405 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched. Jordan McBryde also pitched 32 innings struckout 12 batters with a 3.938 ERA. Both Adams and Cole Pugh earned five double plays this season, while Hart threw out 17 batters and picked off two runners from his position at catcher.

Demopolis has won back-to-back area championships in the past two seasons.

“Demopolis has a really good program,” Smartt said. “Coach (James) Moody has done a really good job with that program. He’s been there a long time and is a good, old school baseball coach. We have to hit well, play good defense and pitch well to compete against Demopolis.

“They have a great program and know how to play the game the right way and work together. We have to play our best to beat them.”

Smartt said the main thing he wants to see from his Trojans is the competitive spirit they’ve brought all season.

“I want to see them compete from the first pitch to the last with all the energy and juice they have,” he said. “From the very first pitch to the last out of the playoffs, give me everything they have. I want them to play hard but also have some fun, too.”

Charles Henderson plays at Demopolis in the first game of the playoff series at 5 p.m. on April 21. The two sides will meet in the second game immediately following the first and if a third game is needed, it will be played on April 22 at 1 p.m.