Centreville takes state title

Published 12:36 am Friday, May 13, 2011

NATCHEZ — For Centreville Academy, the road was rocky, but the victory was worth it.

Because the victory wasn’t simply for each other, or for the school but for a fallen teammate.

After storming back in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2, Centreville Academy held on to a 4-3 lead in Game 3 and secured its first-ever state championship in baseball Thursday evening against Simpson Academy.

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The MAIS Class AA title brought consolation to the Centreville family in light of a tragedy that happened in January 2010. Former player Emile Garrett died in a car wreck, and the Tiger players and coaches said they’ve been trying to win a state title in baseball ever since.

“He was our buddy,” said the Tigers’ Cliff Hurst, who had the go-ahead solo home run in Game 3 to give Centreville the edge.

“The day he died, we were actually out here earlier that night tossing the ball and talking about how great a season we were going to have. He meant everything to the team. We played for him.”

Pitcher Hunter Devall echoed Hurst’s sentiments, saying that Garrett’s uplifting personality meant a great deal to the school.

“Everyone was his friend,” Devall said. “No one disliked him. Pretty much everything we did (this season) was for him.

“He was a great guy, and we’re happy to have won one for him. We know he saw it.”

After losing Game 1 at Simpson Academy Tuesday night, Centreville was in a lose-and-it’s-over situation going into Game 2. And it would come down to the final three outs for the Tigers.

Trailing 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, Simpson Academy needed only three outs to keep the Tigers from securing their tribute. But Jonathon Spivey walked and reached second on a passed ball, then Hunter Travis singled to send Spivey to third.

Devall came up to bat next and popped up on the first pitch, sending Tyler Towles to the plate.

And Towles launched the ball into orbit over left field for a three-run, walkoff home run, sending Centreville into Game 3.

“I really don’t even know what I was thinking in that at-bat,” Towles said. “The Lord (helped me).”

Colby Shaw, who got the win in Game 2 after pitching three shutout innings of relief, got the start in Game 3, pitching two innings and giving up one run.

Centreville took an early lead with a RBI fielder’s choice by Towles that scored Travis. After Simpson Academy tied it 1-1 in the top of the second, Centreville regained the lead 2-1 in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Ethan Noland.

Hurst came in to pitch in the top of the third, and immediately ran into trouble. He let several baserunners reach but managed to limit the damage to two runs, giving the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

Hurst pitched a scoreless fourth inning, and Centreville tied the game 3-3 on an RBI double by Ethan Noland that scored J.T. Doughty in the bottom half of the inning.

After Hurst let the first two baserunners on in the fifth, Devall came to finish the game. Devall, a 2012 LSU commit, proceeded to strike out the next two batters and get the third one to pop up, keeping the game tied.

Hurst hit a go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the fifth, and Devall pitched two more scoreless innings, giving up just one walk, no hits and striking out four.

Centreville coach Jason Horne said the feeling of being state champs is unbelievable, especially considering how hard the Tigers’ road getting there was.

“We had to be No. 1-seeded Glenbrook, a good Brookhaven Academy team and Central Private, which won our district,” Horne said.

“Then, we came into this game down 0-1 (in the series). We preached all week to stay focused, and good things would happen. All of our pitchers came through, and our hitting did when it needed to. It was just a great night for Centreville Academy.”

The Tigers finished the season 29-9.