Patriots prepare for No. 1 Bayshore Christian as playoffs continue

Published 10:01 am Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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The second round of the Class 2A State Playoffs will see a Top 10 clash as the No. 10-ranked Pike Liberal Arts Patriots (21-9) host the No. 1-ranked Bayshore Christian Eagles (21-4) on April 28.

Both Bayshore and PLAS have spent the majority of the 2023 season ranked in the ASWA Top 10 in 2023 with Bayshore taking over the top spot for the last three weeks of the regular season.

Bayshore and Pike are both in their first seasons in Class 2A. The Eagles won back-to-back state championships in Class 1A in both 2021 and 2022 before moving up classifications this season. Meanwhile, Pike was one of the most dominant teams in the AISA over the past decade, winning five state championships since 2012, before moving to the AHSAA this season.

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In the first round, Pike Lib defeated Cottonwood 2-1 after initially sweeping the Bears in two games. Pike’s first win, a come-from-behind victory, was forfeited due to the Patriots violating the AHSAA pitch count rule for sophomores. A sophomore pitcher is only allowed 100 pitches in a game and the Patriots had a sophomore that pitched over that number in the first game of the series. Still, PLAS overcame that mistake to dominate the remainder of the series.

“I thought the guys played well,” PLAS Coach Will Austin said. “I thought they competed and in game one, came from down 4-0 and that’s something special. Then, we were able to take care of those last two games, as well.”

The Eagles, meanwhile, swept Ranburne in two games, thrashing the Bulldogs 10-0 in the first game and 14-0 in the second.

“Bayshore is a very good team,” Austin emphasized. “They pitch it well and play really good defense. They’re a very good team and I’m excited to compete with those guys in round two.”

The Eagles are led by pitcher/infielder John Malone, a Samford signee, who won 1A Player of the Year in both 2021 and 2022 and was named to the Super All-State team last season. Bayshore’s Cole Dean also had a big series in the opening round, going 3-for-4 at the plate with three triples, five RBIs and three runs in game two against Ranburne.

Payne Jefcoat and KC Bradford were both menaces at the plate for PLAS in the first round. Jefcoat went 6-for-10 at the plate against Cottonwood with a double, two RBIs and one run, while Bradford went 4-for-9 with a double, three RBIs and three runs. Pitcher Kade Brookins and Levi DeBoer both hit homers, as well.

Brookins pitched six innings and struck out 10 batters in the series, while Bradford struck out four batters in five innings pitched. Combined, Bradford and Brookins gave up just nine hits and four earned runs in their 11 innings on the mound.

Pike and Bayshore came into the playoffs as two of the hottest teams in 2A. PLAS won five straight games to end the regular season and 18 of the Patriots’ last 21 regular season games. Meanwhile, Bayshore has won 12 straight games and 16 of its last 18 games.

“We have to pitch it well and play really good defense and swing (the bat) well,” Austin said of the series with Bayshore. “I’m excited about it. It’s obviously great to play another week and obviously you have to take care of business this week to move on. So, I’m excited to see our guys compete out there.”

Pike Lib and Bayshore play a doubleheader at Butch Austin Field in Troy on April 28 beginning at 4 p.m. If a third game in the series is required it will take place at 1 p.m. on April 29.