Bradley’s single in bottom of sixth lifts Cathedral to state game
Published 12:02 am Tuesday, May 20, 2014
NATCHEZ — Members of the Cathedral High School Green Wave baseball team shouted “Two more!” as they huddled around first base Monday after shutting out Stringer High School 1-0 to advance to the state championship.
The victory at Chester Willis Field also earned the Green Wave the title of South State champions.
Cathedral will play Smithville High School for the MHSAA Class 1A state championship at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Pearl.
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The players and coaches — plus a few proud parents — couldn’t keep their tears away as emotion filled Chester Willis Field.
The Green Wave showcased a dynamic defensive performance by the entire team that left a talented Devils squad scoreless.
Stringer buckled down as well, not allowing Cathedral to see home plate until the sixth inning.
Head coach Craig Beesley knew his team had won the game after Turner Janette caught a fly ball in right field in the top of the sixth which could have been the potential lead for Stringer with Trenton Stringer sprinting in from third base.
“I knew both teams had the top of the order coming up (in the sixth), and we managed to get three outs,” Beesley said. “When we came off the field, I told them we just won the game. They all looked at me like I didn’t know what the score was.”
With Gabe Smith on second base for Cathedral in the bottom of the sixth inning, freshman Craig Bradley stepped to the plate with two outs and a feeling of déjà vu filling the air.
Bradley was in the same scenario in the South State semifinals Game 2 against French Camp Academy with the score tied 2-2. But this time, Bradley said the pressure was much higher.
“I was a little more nervous, and I knew I had to get a hit to get us to state,” Bradley said. “(Stringer) threw me a curve ball on first pitch, and next thing you know, I had two strikes.”
Regardless of his inner emotion, Bradley showed the toughness and focus of an upperclassman throughout the playoffs, and Beesley knew he could count on Bradley to step up big again.
Bradley hit hard to left center field, and Smith sprinted hard without looking back as he rounded third base with no hesitation and slid home.
Beesley was right.
With the Green Wave up 1-0, all they needed to do was continue to play the resilient style of defense they had been playing all night.
And with Thomas Garrity on the mound, who already had 10 strikeouts on his stat sheet, it seemed like a sure bet.
But Cathedral found itself in the same position as it did in the top of the sixth inning, with a runner on third base and two outs.
Stringer’s Conner Welborn stepped to the plate and connected on a ground ball with a chance to tie the game, but the Green Wave caught him out at first base to become South State champions,
The Cathedral players ran a victory lap around the fence to celebrate with the hundreds of fans who were either sitting on their trucks behind the outfield or in the packed bleachers before returning to Beesley for his speech.
“There couldn’t be a better feeling in the world,” Beesley said. “Garrity pitched a great game.”
Beesley said he is especially proud of his team for pushing through a sudden rash of illness that left a chunk of his players ill Saturday night.
“I’m glad we got to play today,” Beesley said. “(Sunday) we had a little hangover from that bus trip back (from Stringer). Only 14 of our 22 kids practiced because we had some kids sick, and it would’ve been tough to get them out on the field to play.”
With Game 3 pushed back to Monday, Cathedral has only today to practice before heading to Trustmark Park in Pearl Wednesday morning.