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McBee claims Class A baseball title with sweep of Hannah-Pamplico...

McBee – With only three veteran players lining up around the diamond this season, the 2018 McBee Panthers baseball team won its second Class A state title in the last three years, defeating Hannah-Pamplico in the best-of-three championship series with a two-game sweep.

The Panthers (22-11) clinched the title with a 3-2 win at home in game two on May 19th after winning game one on the road, 7-5. The sweep served as a measure of revenge for two regular season losses to the Lower State champion Raiders.

As head coach Chris Lloyd says, the veteran leadership of senior Shane Hammonds and juniors Connor and Clark Kirkley proved to be pivotal in the postseason. And, the Panthers were without Clark Kirkley for about 20 games due to an early season knee injury.

“Our leadership from those three guys, really all year but particularly in the playoffs, was tremendous,” said Lloyd, who took over as head coach this season. “We had a lot of young ones out there all season and they just rallied behind our leaders and got better every week. It was an easy bunch to coach. They worked hard everyday and they came to play. They never complained. They never got tired. They were a scrappy bunch. We lost 11 games so there were some bumps but this team never got too high or too low. They just played. It was really fun to watch them grow up over the course of the season.”

Hammonds, the lone senior and starting centerfielder, hit .412 in the playoffs and scored 15 runs. He was 10-for-16 in the district tournament.

Connor Kirkley hit .419 with 10 RBIs in the playoffs, scoring 18 runs, while posting a 3-0 record with a save on the mound. He allowed just one hit in the title-clinching win.

Clark Kirkley, slated to be the number two pitcher and hit third in the order, returned late in the season and caught fire. He finished the season with 21 RBIs in only 56 at bats.

“Even while he was injured, he never missed a practice and was at every game doing all he could to help these young guys improve and stay focused,” Lloyd said. “Those three guys were rock solid all season. They understood the responsibilities as leaders and they took these young guys under their wing.”

Lloyd says there were many key victories along the way this season but points to a comeback win over defending state champion Lewisville as the turning point.

“We went over there and got down 3-0 before coming back to win in nine innings,” the coach said. “We kind of looked at ourselves then and said, ‘we have a chance.’ We knew if we could get Clark back and get into the playoffs, we could make some sort of run. It all fell into place. That win gave us that extra confidence to get over the hump.”

With Hammonds being the lone senior starter, next year’s McBee team appears loaded for a repeat run in 2019. Lloyd feels his team will again be a contender but prefers to worry about next year at a later date.

“The great thing about winning baseball championships is you have the summer to enjoy it,” joked the coach. “We want to cherish this for a while. We will get back into it some with our summer ball stuff but we can take some time to enjoy this one. Next year will come soon enough. We’ll be ready.”

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