St. Luke’s stopped a dynasty and is intent on beginning one.
The Wildcats stunned defending three-time state champion Shoals Christian, 7-2, to win their first AHSAA Class 1A baseball title Thursday at Riverwalk Stadium.
“We’ve been wanting to face them since we lost last year,” said tournament MVP, Wildcats senior center fielder Justin Ware. “We wanted to end their dynasty. It’s time for us to start our own.”
A year ago, St. Luke’s (32-8) won Game 1 of the best-of-3 finals series, but Shoals Christian (27-15) took the next two to win a third straight state title.
The Wildcats weren’t denied this time.
“Our kids did a great job of staying focused,” said St. Luke’s coach Tim Becker, whose team finished 10-0 in postseason play this year. “They had one goal in mind.”
In the two games, St. Luke’s only struck out twice while Shoals Christian committed six errors.
“To win down here, you’ve got to come in and do all three phases well,” said Shoals Christian coach Jason Anderson, whose team committed four errors Thursday at Paterson Field. “You got to pitch it, you’ve got to defend and you got to hit it and we just weren’t able to do that.”
Freshman Leighton Lary (9-1) allowed just one earned run on eight hits and struck out two in pitching a complete game for St. Luke’s.
“He’s been doing it all year,” Ware said. “The whole team had confidence in him. He’s a bulldog. Even though he’s a freshman, he’s young, but he was pitching like he was a senior today.”
St. Luke’s got extra incentive from ace pitcher Will Bishop (11-2), who after Wednesday’s 6-0 loss, said the Wildcats “got lucky” when they beat the Flame last season.
“We saw he made a little comment,” Wildcats senior second baseman Dalton Becker said. “It just fired us up. When somebody says something like that, it just gets to you.”
Bishop was the losing pitcher in that 3-2 loss a year ago.
“That’s why you always have to be careful what you say,” Becker said. “What he said wasn’t a bad thing, but it’s just something that kind of fired up a little bit.”
On Thursday, Bishop fell to the Wildcats again.
“They’ve got a lot better since last year,” said Bishop, who ended his high school career with 20 postseason wins and the all-time AHSAA leader in hits. “They never die. They just keep coming at you, coming at you.”