Pike Lib, Ariton prepare for tough second round series

Published 12:48 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots and Ariton Purple Cats swept their way to a first round win in the Class 2A State Baseball Playoffs last week but things will get even tougher this week for both programs.

Pike Lib, coming off a sweep of JU Blacksher, will have to hit the road to face the Cottonwood Bears, who swept Ranburne last week.

Pike got solid hitting and pitching in the first round. Luke Barron went a combined 5-for-9 at the plate in the series with a home run, two doubles, a triple, five RBIs and four runs. Meanwhile, pitchers Kade Brookins and Will Rice combined to strike out 14 batters, while giving up just a combined six hits and one earned run in 11 innings of work from the two.

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“It went well,” PLAS Coach Will Austin said of the first round. “I thought the guys competed and did what we had to do and I’m just excited to be moving on to the next round.”

Meanwhile, Cottonwood upset a Ranburne team that came into the first round as the Area 1 Champions. Like Pike, Cottonwood got solid hitting and pitching from its team in the first round. Klete Meadows went a combined 4-for-6 in the series with two RBIs and two runs, while Austyn Miller went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs in game one and Ethan McNeill went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a run in game two. Miller and Braylon Morris combined to pitch 13 innings and struck out a total of 17 batters, while giving up seven hits and six earned runs on the mound.

“Cottonwood is a very good baseball team,” Austin said. “They play the game the right way. They pitch it well, play defense and hit the ball. It well be a great challenge to go down there and play them.

“They’re really good competitors. They compete at a high level and play really hard. Any time you play a team like that, you know you’ll get the best they have.”

Austin said that he needs to see solid fundamentals from his Patriots to get a second round win.

“The pitchers need to be in the zone and pitching with tempo and we have to make the routine plays on defense,” he continued. “We need to hit and score runs when we need to. We have to play with the basic fundamentals to beat these guys.”

Caden Collier and the defending state champ Ariton Purple Cats will host Wicksburg in the second round. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Ariton, the defending 2A State Champions, are coming off a two game sweep of Tuscaloosa Academy last week, while Wicksburg swept Horseshoe Bend.

In the first round, Ian Senn was solid at the plate and on the mound. He went a combined 2-for-4 in the series with two walks, a double, three RBIs and two runs. He also pitched six and 2/3 innings with a pair of strikeouts, while giving up seven hits and four earned runs. Austin Evans also pitched seven innings and fanned three batters, while giving up two hits and two earned runs.

Ariton was able to sweep the series despite playing through two rain delays and an accident that saw a player on deck lose control of a bat that flew into the Cats’ dugout striking two players. While head coach Bob Pickett said both players were okay, it made for a long series.

“I thought we played well,” he said. “We did get some timely hits and pitched it really well and played really good defense. I liked our battle because we had some big hits at big times in the first and second game.”

Wicksburg went 20-4 on the season and not only swept Horseshoe Bend in the first round but shut them out, winning in dominant fashion outscoring them 21-0 in two games.

Seth Williams went a combined 2-for-3 in the series with four runs and two RBIs, while Easton Dean went 3-for-7 with a double and four RBIs. Dean and Drew Colon also combined to pitch 12 innings and gave up just three hits with no runs and 20 strikeouts.

Ariton and Wicksburg met just once in the regular season, a 3-2 Wicksburg win back on Feb. 26.

“They have really good pitching,” Pickett said of Wicksburg. “Drew Colon and Easton Dean are their two workhorses, that’s two college arms right there. They’re a really good team and really well coached.”

Pickett said the Cats will have to come prepared for a battle with the Panthers this weekend.

“We know we have to battle at the plate and hope we can make things happen there and have solid pitching and defense to keep us in it and give ourselves a chance,” Pickett emphasized. “We just need to see execution at the plate and solid pitching and defense. It all comes down to that.”

Ariton hosts Wicksburg in a doubleheader on Friday starting at 4:30 p.m. If a game three is needed, it will be played on Saturday. Pike Lib travels to Cottonwood for a doubleheader on Friday with the first game starting at 4 p.m. If a game three is needed, it will also be played on Saturday.