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Laurence Manning repeats as SCISA AAA baseball champs

Manning Laurence Manning completed a six-game playoff winning streak with a 3-0 win over Cardinal Newman to win its second consecutive SCISA AAA baseball state title on May 16th.

The Swampcats finish the 2017 season with a 22-4 record and overcame a loss to Pinewood Prep in their playoff opener to repeat as champions.

“We opened that (best-of-three) series with a loss to Pinewood at home and our backs were against the wall, having to go there in game two,” coach Barry Hatfield said. “That loss turned us around mentally. We got focused and we put together six really good games in a row.”

After taking the next two games from Pinewood Prep, the Swampcats swept top-seed Ben Lippen in two games, followed by a two-game sweep of Cardinal Newman in the finals. Laurence Manning won game one of the championship series, 7-4.

“To me, to go through the three teams we had to go through to win it, it’s very impressive,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield had only three seniors on this year’s roster and most of the 2017 team will return next spring. One of those seniors, Buddy Bleasdale, has been named the SCISA AAA Player of the Year by the High School Sports Report. He was expected to be the team’s number one starting pitcher but never got his arm fully healthy and logged only 10 innings all season.

However, Bleasdale was a major force offensively, finishing with a team-high .476 batting average. He hit .542 in the seven playoff games.

“He was awesome in the final two series, driving in runs and getting hit after hit,” Hatfield said. “He would have been a major force on the mound had he been healthy but he never let up at the plate. He was a big-time player for us.”

Junior infielder Dawson Hatfield hit .524 in the playoffs to finish at .381 for the season. Sophomore infielder Trent Frye hit .349 and Brent Jordan batted .360 for the season.

“It was a total team effort offensively, really in every phase of the game,” Hatfield said. “We had so many different guys come up with big hits or make a big play defensively. We had eight guys pitch big innings for us. It’s a special team. These kids love competing and love to win.”

In addition to Bleasdale, senior Ryan Touchberry was expected to be a key pitcher but also struggled to get and stay healthy. Junior Braydon Osteen became the team’s top pitcher and sophomore Andrew Boyd notched playoff wins over Pinewood and Cardinal Newman, allowing only four hits in the title-clinching win.

Dalton Page, Morgan Morris, Jake Jordan, Taylor Lee, Frye and Bobby Crisp all contributed solid work on the mound during the season.

With a veteran team returning next year, the Swampcats will be considered one of the favorites again in AAA. Hatfield chooses to first enjoy the 2017 championship but realizes the expectations will again be high.

“Here at Laurence Manning, the expectations are always high,” the coach said. “I think it was harder to win this second one than it was last year. Climbing that mountain is hard but once you do it, everyone expects you to be able to do it every year. That’s okay with me. As a coach, I have those same high expectations.”

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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