McGill-Toolen 7-7, Bob Jones 11-6:
Two very evenly-matched baseball teams met this weekend for the state Class 7A championship in Montgomery.
And, they knew it.
After all, McGill-Toolen and Bob Jones had spit two regular-season games, and they split the first two games of the best-of-three championship series to set up a winner-take-all Game 3 at Riverwalk Stadium.
This one came down to the final one-out pitch. The throw from from McGill-Toolen’s senior Nathan LaRue was lined back at him. John Michael Riley who had singled, was doubled off first, and it was all over.
LaRue also contributed at the plate in a major way. His two-out, 400-foot double off the fence in center in the sixth gave McGill-Toolen a 7-4 lead.
But Bob Jones kept answering. When Colten Carver belted a two-run homer to left in his team’s sixth, it was 7-6.
The Patriots put two runners on in their seventh, but at that point McGill-Toolen had the answer to win a title.
Matthew Glover, the third of four McGill pitchers, got the win. Andrew Wright, second Bob Jones pitcher, took the loss.
“Everybody would get it,” Becker said.
Play of the game: No doubt here. In the seventh, Bob Jones had runners at first and second, thanks to singles from Dylan Ray and Riley. There was one out.
Carver, who had belted a two-run homer in the sixth, blistered a pitch back toward LaRue. Six inches either side and it might have resulted in a game-tying single to center. But LaRue had his glove in the right spot, caught it, doubled Riley off first and McGill had its championship.
Stat sheet: Bob Jones outhit McGill-Toolen 12-8. Riley had three hits. Carver and Slate Alford homered. Jacob Huff and Spencer Hadley hit safely twice each for McGill.
By the numbers: Matthew Glover, third of four McGill pitchers, got the win in 2 2/3 innings. LaRue hurled the final frame. Andrew Wright, the second of three Bob Jones pitchers, went a third of an inning and took the loss.
Game 1 recap: Bob Jones forced a third game with an 11-7 win. Carver’s two-run single in the sixth was part of a three-run inning that gave the Patriots a 9-6 lead. They added two more in the seventh.
Coachspeak: “When you play Bob Jones it’s never over. They scored five runs in the ninth inning during the season to beat us. This was stressful up and down for our coaches and fans. I couldn’t be more proud. We want those expectations,” -Becker
“I am proud of these guys. They fought to the end. We kept fighting to the last punch. I told the players to not let this game define us. This group has been in a lot of continuous fights. We are evenly-matched. Our hats off to them. They did what they had to do.” -Jared Smith, Bob Jones.
They said it: “It was a great series. We fought hard. We had grit and determination to win this,” – Hadley.
“We kept fighting. This is a great team. You’ve got to compete against them,” – Alford
McGill-Toolen 8, Bob Jones 6:
Chandler Best started his high school career with a relief appearance as a freshman against Trinity at Paterson Field in Montgomery.
He got the win that day.
He finished the pitching part of his prep career Friday night in a much bigger game.
He got that win as well.
The Southern Miss signee worked in and out of trouble in a complete-game effort and also homered as the Yellow Jackets held off stubborn Bob Jones 8-6 in the opening game of the best-of-three Class 7A title series.
McGill (31-7-1) can clinch its first state baseball title with one win Saturday.
“It’s pretty special,” Best said.
The senior finished his stellar career at 35-2. He was 10-1 this year. He scattered nine hits Friday night and allowed six runs, though only three were earned. He struck out seven, including the final batter of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and the seventh inning with two on and inclement weather approaching.
“Any time you play Bob Jones, it’s going to be a battle,” McGill-Toolen coach Tim Becker said. “We were able to get on their pitcher (Austin East) early in the first inning. I thought our kids did a good job swinging the bat today. Bob Jones showed at the end they will kick and fight. Chandler did an outstanding job. That would have been his last hitter because he was at 112 pitches before that guy.”
Both Becker and Best said they had no idea lightning was visible over the right-field stands for much of the last half inning. Bob Jones scored three runs with two outs following a McGill error.
“We can’t panic,” Bob Jones coach Jared Smith said. “It’s our first playoff loss, but our guys competed until the end. We were one hit away right there from maybe tying the game. We had the bases loaded the inning before, and that is their best guy (Best). He is like 35-2 in three years. I thought we hit him well. We just couldn’t get them out early and let them get the 5-0 lead. It was tough to dig ourselves out of it. But it’s a series for a reason.”
McGill scored three runs in the first, including Best’s solo homer, and tacked on two more for a 5-0 lead in the third. The Yellow Jackets led 8-3 entering the final half inning. McGill is now 7-0 in the playoffs. Bob Jones lost for the first time in the postseason.
Star of the game: Best was efficient and in control most of the way, but it was Spencer Hadley who fueled the offense. The Spring Hill signee was 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs
“Coach (Tommy) Walker and coach Becker prepared us well for more advanced pitching and that showed out on the field today,” Handley said.
McGill-Toolen – Michael Ellis, Jacob Huff and Best each had two hits. McGill finished with a total of eight.
Bob Jones – Dylan Ray was 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Mitchell Daly also had two hits. East took the loss. He gave up eight hits and five runs in 2.1 innings. Nick Brown retired nine straight in relief at one point but gave up three runs on four hits in 4.2 innings.
A welcome return: Bob Jones junior Caden Rose made a surprise return to the lineup Friday. Rose missed 60 days with a lacerated spleen. He was the designated hitter in Game 1. He went 1-for-3. His first at-bat ended with a double high off the centerfield wall.
“We thought he was out for the year,” Smith said. “We found out on Monday he was cleared and didn’t tell anyone. He’s limited, but he can DH. He can’t run the bases, but anytime you can write his name back in the lineup you are happy about it. He is one of our leaders. He’ll play tomorrow. A double off the wall for the first hit of the game is big for sure.”
Four in the outfield: The Patriots employed an unusual defense for McGill slugger Nathan LaRue. When the bases were empty with LaRue at the plate, Bob Jones played four outfielders.
“I had never done that, and I’ve only seen it once. We had a great scouting report on Nate LaRue. He doesn’t hit a lot of ground balls. He hits it n the air and hits it far. In certain situations, we can’t do that obviously. It worked today. It may not tomorrow, but he’s a double and homer guy who isn’t going to hit a lot of ground balls.”
LaRue was 0-for-3, though he did fly out to the wall in deep center once.
By the numbers: 2-1 – McGill’s record against Bob Jones this year. The team split a doubleheader in the regular season.
Coachspeak: “When we get to this point, you are here to play. We are proud of our guys. They’ve been outstanding the last few weeks. We have to stay focused on tomorrow, celebrate for an hour or so and get back to work.” – Becker.
They said it:
“They came out. They hit the ball well. We didn’t make errors or anything like that. They hit the ball well, went gap-to-gap. Austin East has pitched well for us the last two weeks – really all year – but they got on him early. We tried to go to something different. Nick did a heck of a job, but when you get down that quick, it’s tough. I felt like they got up early and probably relaxed, and we might have tensed up.” – Smith.
“One thing you have to do with teams like this is keep scoring. You aren’t going to be able to keep them down.” – Becker.
“A good team like Bob Jones is going to fight to the end. They are winners. Coach (Brandon) Sage called a great game, and I had some key double plays behind me. We did a good job of finally closing out and keeping our composure.” – Best.
Next up: Game 2 is slated for 10 a.m. at Riverwalk Stadium on Saturday. Game 3 would follow if Bob Jones wins.