In the first series of the 2021 GHSA Baseball State Championships, the Benedictine Cadets and Marist War Eagles faced-off for the Class 4A title at Coolray Field.
The first game of the championship series started off with a bang, as senior Tyler Hare hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the first inning to put the War Eagles up 2-0.
“One of the things we had talked about was the importance of being able to set the tone coming in,” said Marist head coach Mike Strickland. “Being able to strike first, that was really important, for us to get on the board and give ourselves a little bit of cushion so we could settle in and relax. Our guys put some good at bats together. Hare with the big one. We continued to put good at bats together and get the small stuff going.”
Later in the inning, an RBI single from senior Andrew Williams extended the Marist lead. While the Benedictine bats had yet to shine, Cadets’ senior pitcher Trent Markiton found his grove and retired nine straight batters following the War Eagles’ three-run first inning.
However, the runs kept coming for Marist as junior Champ Davis hit an RBI double in the top of the fifth, followed by an RBI from senior Thomas Rollauer that scored Davis and extended the War Eagles’ lead to 5-0.
Marist would go on to hold Benedictine scoreless through seven innings and would secure the first-game victory to end Benedictine’s 16-game win streak. Starting pitcher junior Preston Larmore went six innings with two strikeouts for the War Eagles while allowing just four hits.
In the second game of the series, Benedictine was first to put points on the board after junior Kam Edge scored on a wild pitch to go up 1-0. In the bottom of the second, Marist would tie the game off an RBI single from Hare. The game went scoreless through four innings, as Benedictine took to the plate in the top of the seventh to try and force a game three.
After failing to plate a run, the Cadets took the field as the War Eagles stepped up to the plate to try and secure the finals victory. A single from Rollauer put runners on the corners for Marist, and after Benedictine intentionally walked Hare, Grey Taylor came up to bat with bases loaded, two outs and the state title on the line. Taylor delivered, sending a line drive over the short stops head and into the outfield for the walk-off win.
“He looked really comfortable,” said Strickland. “He saw it really well. He’s been in the program for four years, has a great sense of respect for the standard of our program and what we commit to day in and day out. For it to be him in that moment, and for him to have that much comfort, it was incredible.”
While the victory came in dramatic fashion, there was never any doubt in Strickland’s mind that his team was prepared for the big moments required to take home the title.
“Our guys are willing to be pushed hard and coached hard. You go back and take a look at our schedule, Parkview, Starr’s Mill, Loganville. They’re all on our schedule. Our guys were fortunate to be tested early and throughout the year. When it came to those moments of whether or not you thought you could, you knew you could.”
The victory gives Marist its 14th baseball state title in program history, and second in Class 4A over four seasons. Marist starting pitcher Ryan McTighe ended game two with three strikeouts and allowed just two hits through six innings. Benedictine’s Carter Holton finished with twelve strikeouts.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com