Ariton looks to repeat as State Champs

Published 10:33 am Monday, May 13, 2024

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This week, the Ariton Purple Cats have the opportunity to repeat as Class 2A State Champions as they head to Oxford to face off against Mars Hill Bible.

Ariton swept Bayshore Christian in the 2A Semifinals last week to earn their spot back in the State Championship.

“We played a complete two games,” Ariton Coach Bob Pickett said. “We were able to pitch it well and play good defense and get on them early and sort of take them out of it and apply a lot of pressure in the game. Everything just rolled our way.”

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In the semifinals, Ariton senior Ian Senn was a star both at the plate and on the mound. He went 2-for-4 at the plate in the series with a home run, one double, three RBIs and five runs. As a pitcher, Senn struck out six batters and gave up just five hits and one earned run in five inning pitched.

After losing the final regular season series to GW Long, Ariton went on to win 9-of-10 playoff games so far with three series sweeps.

“It’s just a new season for us, our guys have been there before,” Pickett said of the way the Cats turned it on in the playoffs. “They really just turned the page and kept going. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. You can have a bad weekend just the same as you can have a good one.”

Meanwhile, Mars Hill Bible also swept its way into the state finals, knocking off Red Bay in two straight games. Mars Hill comes into the finals with a 26-10 record. Leading the way at the plate in the semifinal was Jaxon Poag, who went 4-for-7 with a double and three runs. Cam Isbell also went 3-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs. Isbell and Brooks Campbell each pitched a complete game in the semifinals. Isbell struck out 11 batters and gave up four hits and one earned run in his seven innings, while Campbell struck out seven and gave up three hits and one earned run in his seven innings.

“They’re a complete team,” Pickett said of Mars Hill. “They’re really good to make it this far, obviously. They have good pitchers that pound the strike zone and they have a good lineup. I think we’re two pretty similar teams.”

For the Cats to repeat as State Champs, Pickett said they have to just keep playing the way they’ve been playing.

“We have do what we’ve been doing; timely hitting, good pitching, good defense and just go out there and compete,” he empathized.

Coming into the 2024 season as defending 2A State Champions, the Purple Cats have had a target on their backs all year. Pickett said he’s proud of the way they’ve handled the pressure.

“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” he said. “When you start the year as (defending) state champs you have a target on your back and you get everyone’s best games. We won 28 games and battled and have been battled tested. It’s a testament to the players and their hard work and work ethic and their team chemistry.”

Ariton starts the State Championship series on Wednesday, May 15, at 11 a.m. in Oxford. Game two will take place on May 16 at 10 a.m. at Jacksonville State University with a game three following that, if necessary.