Pearl River Central earns first-ever baseball state title

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 23, 2017

PEARL — The wait is over for Pearl River Central as the Blue Devils had a historic fourth inning that beat two-time defending champion Oxford 7-3 to claim the MHSAA Class 5A State Championship Saturday night at Trustmark Park.

PRC had a couple of undefeated records that, in order to become state champions, they needed to defend, including Cade Lee’s 8-0 record on the mound this year and PRC’s 10-0 record in game threes under coach Neil Walther.

In the end, the Devils embraced the role of the underdog and used it to their advantage to end a momentous season as the number one team in 5A baseball.

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This is their first baseball state title in Blue Devils history, Walther said.

“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make history and get to the state championship. Every single person on this team stepped up and put us in the positions we needed to be in,” senior pitcher of game three Cade Lee said. “We knew we were the scrapper team out of the two and we were never going to stop fighting and I think that’s what separated us this year. Coach always told us that we aren’t going into a baseball game, we are heading into a fight and we have to out tough, out play, out grit, do whatever you can to get a win.”

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the third, Pearl River Central found themselves with their backs against the wall as Oxford had another potential scoring run waiting on third with only one out. However, Lee showed why he is 8-0 this year on the mound by striking out the final two batters, which changed the momentum of the state championship final.

Throughout this season, what separated PRC from the rest was their tenacity at the plate, cranking through multiple hits to rally past its opposition.

In the fourth inning, PRC performed the rally that made history.

After two singles by Eli Lee and Josh Kennedy and walking Cade Lee to fill the bases, Oxford pitcher Reed Markle was yanked off the mound, replaced by Tyler Smith who met the wrath of the Blue Devils after throwing a wild pitch that allowed Eli Lee to score the tying run.

With bases loaded, Zach Roussell knocked home two runs with a double to left field to give PRC its first lead of the game, 4-2. As PRC got back to the top of the line up sitting on two outs, Austen Izzio singled for an RBI before another wild pitch from Chargers’ Smith brought home Tristan Schlottmann to bounce PRC ahead 6-2.

“Never count anyone out. Coach has told us over and over again that in baseball it’s not the best team that always wins, but the toughest,” Cade Lee said. “Our toughness stretched this season out as far as it could go, going into game three, and as a senior I couldn’t be happier the way it played out. I can’t thank my defense enough for how hard they play behind me.”

Walther said for an unspecified reason, his defense plays phenomenally behind Cade Lee, and that extra effort showed in the bottom of the fourth when Schlottmann and Caleb Tynes collided in the outfield chasing after a deep hit by Oxford’s Duncan Graeber. As the two fell in the outfield grass, Schlottmann held up his glove, signaling that he got final out.

Later, Eli Lee brought home Izzio with an RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to give the Devils a 7-3 cushion as they headed into the bottom of the final inning.

With three outs separating them from making history, Cade Lee forced two pop flies into the outfield for two quick outs. Then, he was given a loud round of applause as he headed for the dugout, replaced by Rigell Robinson, who previously threw PRC to a game one victory against Oxford. Pitch after pitch, the Devils dugout was anxious to celebrate a program changing victory and with a full count against Chargers’ Clark Stovall, Robinson capped off the night by throwing the strike that transformed Carriere into a title town, defeating Oxford 7-3.

“It was tough to get here from being down 1-0 to Pascagoula in the first round to dropping game one to Hattiesburg when we had a seven run lead in the final inning. This is just a resilient group of guys. We only had three seniors, but they are three leaders and without them we are not here.”

Coming into this season, PRC lost nine seniors and seven starters, leaving voids for players like freshman shortstop Mason Treat to fill.

“This journey has been great, growing up with these guys,” Treat said, who was a vital component of the Devils championship run. “Everyone came out immediately thinking we were the underdogs, but we knew we were better than that and I am so happy I was able to be part of this team.”