Cathedral tops Indianola in nine innings to advance to title series

Published 12:21 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

NATCHEZ — Cathedral High School’s Andrew Beesley was 1-for-4 against Indianola Academy’s Jeremy Whitfield Friday in the MAIS AAA semifinals heading into his final at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.

With the tying and winning runin scoring position, Beesley stood patiently in the batter’s box.

The senior shortstop smacked a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field and held his right arm in the air as he ran to first base. Jardarius Anderson scored easily from third, and Connor Branton beat the throw to the plate, and the Green Wave walked off with a 6-5 win to complete a two-game sweep of Indianola Academy.

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“I trusted my hands and let the ball get deep,” Beesley said. “As soon as I hit it, I knew, with (Branton’s) speed on second, we were going to win. There’s no better feeling.”

For a brief moment it was hard to tell which Beesley was younger as Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley ran from his post at third base and dove into the dog pile down the first base line.

“That’s the moment I’ve always wanted ever since I was little,” Andrew said. “It just happened to work out perfectly.”

Cathedral could exhale after a rollercoaster game in which the lead exchanged hands five times.

The Green Wave controlled a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning when Indianola’s Will Davis, Sherman Timbs and Wesley Lester hit solo home runs off Cathedral pitcher Gabe Smith to take a 4-3 lead. It was the first time Cathedral had trailed in the playoffs this season.

Lester drove his pitch to straight away center field and watched it fly just over the 375–foot sign.

“Those boys hit the ball hard, I haven’t seen many hit out of centerfield here,” Beesley said. “That’s only the fourth one I’ve seen in 23 years of coaching.”

Cathedral went down quietly in the following inning, and Smith stranded a runner in scoring position in the seventh.

Anderson hit a leadoff single and moved into scoring position on a Reed White sacrifice bunt.

Smith helped his own cause by putting a ball in play past the shortstop and Anderson scored to give Cathedral a second life.

Cathedral catcher Zach Flattmann threw a dart to second to catch Jeremy Whitfield stealing and ended the Colonels’ threat in the eighth.

Craig elected to keep Smith on the mound in the ninth after 97 pitches. Indianola hit a one-out double that one-hopped the left-center field wall and the run came in on a weak fly ball that popped out of the glove of Anderson, the Cathedral right fielder.

“(Smith) is a competitor,” Craig said. “He’s not going to go in there and throw it by anybody, but he can throw a lot of pitches.”

In the home half of the inning, Anderson took a pitch on the shoulder to reach base. He stood on first with two out when Smith poked a ball past shortstop and Anderson went from first to third on the hit.

Beesley held up the stop sign for Anderson, but said that — with the left fielder moving away from the play — Anderson had the option to keep running.

Anderson said he ran with a little more determination because of the heat of the moment.

“(I ran through the sign because of) emotions and I was trying to be aggressive on the bases,” Anderson said. “I got upset when I dropped (the fly ball), but I knew I couldn’t hang my head. I had to get on base.”

Smith’s hit put him in scoring position and Cathedral brought out Branton as the courtesy runner.

“I was standing on second and thought, ‘Wow, if I get this run, we’re going to (the state championship),” Branton said. “I made sure I was getting in. It still hasn’t hit me.”

Smith earned the win tossing 9 innings with four earned on 11 hits and five strikeouts. Beesley was 2-for-5 with two RBIs, Pate Shirley was 1-for-4 with one RBI and Smith was 2-for-3.

Cathedral advances to the MAIS AAA finals to face Silliman Institute from Clinton, La. Cathedral will host Game 1 in Natchez at 6 p.m. The best-of-three series shifts Thursday to Clinton for Games 2 and 3.

“Hats off to my teammates,” Andrew said. “It’s hard to beat us (at home) … we’ve played big games before, and we’ve never given up on each other.”