Monday night was one of redemption for East Union, and in the end, destiny was fulfilled, and the Urchins are set to play for the 2A state championship in Pearl.
For Alex Boland, redemption came on offense Monday night. Miscommunication hurt the senior catcher and pitcher Cody Bo Dillard during Sunday’s game two of the series. The result was Baldwyn bringing in the game-tying run, and later in the game, the Bearcats would take the 2-1 lead and hold on to win by that final.
“We had different signs, and we have to change that when there’s a runner at second,” Boland said. “At that point, that runner went to third, and we had runners on the corners, and we were signaling for a slider, but I did something with my hand that showed a fast ball. I didn’t know it was coming, and when he threw it, I was expecting a slider. Cody Bo has a great arm, and when he throws something, you’d better be ready, and I wasn’t ready.”
During Boland’s first at bat in the second inning of game three, he followed Austin Basil, who had just hit an RBI double to score the game’s first run. Taking 14 pitches from Baldwyn’s Bishop Davis, Boland hit a single that plated Basil, putting the Urchins up 2-0.
“As soon as I stepped in the box, I said that each pitch has a purpose, swinging with a purpose,” Boland said. “I had to be disciplined, and I’ve had a bad season, and I need to finish with something good. This isn’t all about me, it’s about the team, and when you have a runner at second, you want to hit it to the right side, and I knew I had to do that.”
East Union held the 2-0 lead until the sixth inning, when the Bearcats had runners at the corners, and Dustin Kirk brought in a run, making it 2-1 with one out. The Urchins’ defense stepped up, registering the final two outs to keep Baldwyn from making any more damage in the frame.
“I thought they did a tremendous job,” East Union head coach Chris Basil said of the defense.” We’ve had great pitching performances the entire series, and I can’t say enough about those guys on the hill. We use them about as much as we can, and they need a few days rest, but when I call them, they’ll be ready to go.”
Down to its final three outs, Baldwyn placed two on base after being hit by a pitch. This resulted in Basil removing Austin Sanders from the game, and bringing in Dillard to pick up the final three outs. For the senior pitcher, this was his moment of redemption after taking the game two loss, 2-1, on Sunday.
“I just put that behind me, and the focus was getting those outs,” Dillard said. “It was just about trying to do what I can to help my team out.”
Dillard and the Urchins’ defense picked up three straight outs, sending the team into celebration, as they will make their first trip to state since 2007.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Basil said. “They have a tremendous heart, and they’ve worked so hard. They deserve this. Our community, there’s not telling how many of them have been out here, and it’s about them and these young men. I’m so honored and proud to be here with them.”
Like in the game one win on Thursday, Sanders earned the win on the mound, and talked about having to go twice against the Bearcats in this series.
“I just had to put faith in my teammates behind me, and I knew they had my back,” Sanders said. “I also had to put faith in God, too. He’s carried us through all of this.”
Now East Union faces the daunting task of a quick turnaround for game one of the 2A state championship series, which will take place on Wednesday. The main concern will be pitching, as both Dillard and Sanders have been on the mound already this week.
“That’s trouble, because they have to do a lot running to get back in shape and get their legs back underneath them, but they don’t want to do too much, so it’s a tricky situation,” Basil said. “They’ll be there, and they’re going to do whatever they need to do for us to be successful.”
The Urchins will face Taylorsville, who defeated Lloyd Star to reach the championship series.
“They’re an unbelievable program, and they’re a tremendous club,” Basil said. “They lost at state last year, and they have a great history of baseball. It’s a tough match-up, but we have some guys who will do whatever it takes to be successful.”
Game one of the series will take place on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Game two is set for a 10:30 a.m. start on Friday. This year’s championship series will take place at Trustmark Park in Pearl.