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Fox Creek captures first championship with 11-1 rout of Latta in Class AA baseball finals

LATTA—It may have been a long wait, but Fox Creek High School finally had something to celebrate.  Having opened in 2004, the school earned its first state championship in any sport as the baseball team swept Latta in consecutive games to claim the Class AA crown.

“It’s awesome.  This is a great group of guys,” said Fox Creek head coach Kevin Lynn, who also won a title as a player at North Augusta.  “We knew coming into this year that this would be a team that we’d have a chance to do something with.  I can’t say enough.  These guys are relentless, they work hard, and they’re a fun group to be around.  I’m glad they’re getting to experience this right now.”

“They made all the plays so I’ll give them the credit,” Latta head coach Don Cribb said.  “We didn’t make the plays and that was the difference in the game.  We hit some balls hard and they made the plays.  They hit them hard and we didn’t make the plays.  That’s baseball.”

The Predators pounded out 10 hits and took advantage of six Latta errors to clinch the title, 11-1, in a game that was called after six innings.  Fox Creek pitcher Peyton Doolittle went the distance, allowing just one earned run on six hits (including four infield singles) with one walk and three strikeouts while working out of trouble several times.

The top of the second inning provided fireworks for both teams.  Fox Creek designated hitter Neko Williams, who went 2-for-3 with four runs scored on the afternoon, led off with triple to right field and came home on Ryan Gregory’s single.  Hunter Steger followed with a bunt single, and Cam Mitchem reached on an errant throw to first by the pitcher.  Trevor Anderson then drew a walk to force in a run before Noah Jarrard was safe at first on another Vikings error to push the lead to 3-0.

However, the damage was contained by Latta pitcher Dylan Brewer, who caught a line drive off the bat of Simeon O’Meara.  Brewer immediately threw to third base to double off Mitchem, and Deonte Stanley’s relay throw to first to nab Jarrard scrambling back to the bag completed the triple play. 

Cribb later said it was the first triple play he had been a part of since his first season coaching Marion back in 1984.

The Predators added two more runs in the top of the third.  A one-out single by Hayden Boyette got the rally started, and Williams and Gregory loaded the bases on an error and a walk, respectively.  Steger and Mitchem made it 5-0 with back-to-back RBI singles.

Latta seemed ready to have an offensive outburst in the bottom of the third inning, but couldn’t get the clutch hit it needed.  Jason Norton got aboard on an infield hit and moved up 90 feet on a single to center by Stanley.  McLeod Carmichael put Vikings on the pond with a single to short, but Doolittle got Russ Rogers to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play and Brewer on a groundout to limit the damage to a single run.

Fox Creek (27-5) put the game out of reach in the fourth inning, taking advantage of three walks, a hit batter and two more Latta errors to score four more runs on just two hits.  Boyette brought in Jarrard with a bloop single to centerfield, Mike Ray scored on a sacrifice fly by Gregory, and both courtesy runner Darius Broadwater and Williams crossed the plate on fielding miscues.

“In these types of games, you expect like the first game was – a one-run game with good pitching, good defense and timely hitting.  We did all those things tonight, whereas they struggled a little bit and we were able to take advantage of it,” Lynn said.

The Vikings had a couple more chances to cut into the deficit, but once again Doolittle was up to the task.  Cledus Williams was hit by a pitch and Daniel Khalil singled to begin the bottom of the fourth, but the right-hander got Kody Anderson to bounce a chopper to Steger at third base, who touched the bag and threw over to first for another double play.  Pierce Watson grounded out to strand Khalil at second base.

Latta loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but failed to take advantage of the opportunity.  Brewer hit a one-hopper back to Doolittle, who came home for the force out, and Boyette completed the twin killing after his relay down to first base was in time.

“When we did get in trouble, he made pitches to get himself out of trouble.  Credit the defense, too.  It was great that we didn’t panic in those situations.  If a ball gets in here or there, or if we don’t make a play that extends the inning, the next thing you know they’re right back in the ballgame.  He stepped up when he needed to and got the job done,” Lynn said.

Gregory capped the scoring with a two-run double in the top of the seventh and ended the day with a game-high 4 RBI.  Steger was 3-for-4 and Boyette had two hits for the Predators.

It was a bittersweet end to the season for Latta, who finished with a 21-6 overall record.  After playing for four consecutive Class A titles, the Vikings kept their impressive streak going by making it to the AA finals.

“We only had three guys coming back that had any varsity experience, so we knew we’d have some new guys.  They really, really pushed and got better and better.  We had a great season.  We moved up a classification, but we didn’t focus on that.  We just focused on getting better every day.  I felt like we did that up until this series,” Cribb said.

 

SCORING SUMMARY

Fox Creek   032   402—11  10  1

Latta High   001   000—1   6   6


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