Cathedral wins state championship with 4-2 victory
Published 12:05 am Saturday, May 23, 2015
PEARL — Cathedral pitcher Sam Parker stood on the mound with his arms stretched, mouth wide and glove abandoned, anticipating the championship dog pile every Green Wave player was waiting for.
After falling to Smithville in the MHSAA Class A State Championship at Trustmark Park in 2014, the Cathedral baseball team set out on a mission to get back to the state title game and finish the job. One out away from winning the series against Smithville Friday afternoon, Parker struck out Smithville’s Blake Comer, giving Cathedral the 4-2 win, series and accomplishment of winning the state championship.
“This whole team, we’ve been talking about it since last year,” said Parker, cuddling the trophy like a baby after the game. “To be here and finally hold this trophy, it’s fantastic.”
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Immediately following the dog pile and award ceremony, Andrew Beesley clung to the MHSAA Class A State Championship Trophy. The dream of winning a state championship at Cathedral with his father, Craig Beesley, watching on as head coach became reality.
“We already won for football, but baseball is my big sport, so I’ve always dreamed of playing here and winning a state championship in front of my dad,” Andrew said.
His father, Craig Beesley, won his second state championship as a head coach — the first being in 2004 — but perhaps even more importantly to him, he watched Andrew celebrate a championship with players he grew up playing with. It also didn’t hurt watching Andrew suck up balls at shortstop like a vacuum, go 6-for-8, score five runs and provide two RBIs in the championship series.
“Being that he played so well, for your son to be leadoff hitter and shortstop, it makes it that more special to win one,” Craig said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve won that first one. Hopefully, I can win that third one next year, but you never know. There are so many things that have to go right for you to win a state championship. This was just our year.”
Coming off of a 13-1 victory Wednesday, Cathedral baseball players knew the pressure was on to score early on, in an effort to try to put the series away early.
Andrew started the game offensively for the Green Wave with a double down the first base line in the first inning. With ensuing batter Craig Bradley at bat, Beesley darted for third on a steal attempt. The throw down to third was off target, allowing Beesley to reach home and give Cathedral a quick 1-0 lead.
“Jumping on them early killed their momentum,” Andrew said. “It was pretty big.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the third inning, Beesley once again got Cathedral’s offense in motion with a leadoff single. Following a Zach Flattmann single, putting runners on the corners with one out, Quinton Logan launched an RBI bloop single in left field, giving Cathedral a 2-1 lead. Still with one out, Pate Shirley hit a grounder to shortstop, who tossed the ball over to second baseman Comer for the force out. Thinking it was the third out of the inning, Comer casually tossed the ball toward the mound, not attempting to turn the potential inning-ending double play. Meanwhile, pinch runner Jardarius Anderson rounded third and easily reached home to expand Cathedral’s lead.
“I think he lost count of the outs in the inning, and (Anderson) was coming all the way,” Craig said. “We knew if he tried to turn two, we thought we could score from second on the groundball. We caught some breaks today.”
An ensuing single by Brock Farmer allowed Shirley to advance to third before a throwing error opened the door for Shirley to score Cathedral’s fourth run of the game.
Combined pitching effort
Before Parker recorded the save, Gabe Smith was in command of the game, opening the championship encounter with back-to-back three-up, three-down innings. Smith drew the start roughly an hour before the game, after battling a stomach ulcer discovered Thursday.
“(Smith) takes pills for the back pain he’s had since last summer, and one of them got stuck in his throat,” Craig said. “We thought it might have been food, and he would have to have surgery. They rushed him to Jackson, and we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Smith broke the news that he might have to have surgery to his head coach at Craig’s house Thursday.
“He seemed worried when I told him I wasn’t coming to practice, but I said, ‘I will play tomorrow,’” Smith said.
Approximately an hour and a half before the game, after Smith’s health issues were resolved with medicine, Craig told Smith he would be the starter. Smith pitched five innings, striking out three, giving up five hits and two runs. He ran into trouble in the sixth, and with base runners on first and second with no outs, Beesley elected to go to his bullpen.
“I’ve been ready since the fourth inning,” Parker said. “Coach called in the fifth inning and said, ‘If Gabe gets into trouble, we’re going to send you out there.’”
After a sacrifice bunt that moved the base runners to second and third, Parker pitched back-to-back strikeouts to end the sixth inning, pumping his arm as he ran toward the dugout.
“Sam is so good out of the bullpen, especially after Gabe,” Craig said. “Gabe is more off-speed and hits location, and then here comes Sam delivering the fastball. There’s something about pitching in Trustmark, when he comes out of that bullpen, he throws it well.”
The championship win marked Cathedral’s fourth state championship in baseball. Ken Beesley won championships in 1982 and 1995, and Craig previously won in 2004.
Logan, Beesley and Flattman each went 2-for-3 in the game. Beesley and Smith recorded doubles, while Cole Williams recorded a double for Smithville.
Micah McCain, who allowed four runs on nine hits, recorded a triple for Smithville.
Cathedral finished the season with a 25-4 record, while Smithville finished with an 18-14 record.