Lucky number 13: Marist wins 13th state baseball title with comeback

DSCN4471Just as in Game 2, the Marist War Eagles found themselves down in Game 3. And just as Game 2 ended with a comeback win for Marist, so did Game 3.

The War Eagles came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat region 7-AAAA rival Blessed Trinity 4-3 in the final game of the Class AAAA baseball championship series on May 27 at State Mutual Stadium in Rome. The state title win was the 13th in program history for Marist and first since 2011.

Marist coach Mike Strickland said it was incredible how his team fought back to knock out the No. 1-ranked team.

“I know how good [Blessed Trinity coach] Andy [Harlin] and his team are and how they work and how they prepare,” Strickland said. “We have so much respect for them. For it to come this way is really special and our kids—what grit and toughness [they showed]. Getting down by three and just saying, ‘No, I’m not going to let it go.’”

Blessed Trinity took a 2-0 lead in the top if the second inning after a 2-run RBI double by Cole McNamee. In the third inning, a triple by C.J. Abrams put him in scoring position for Blessed Trinity’s third run of the game. That third run came after a ground out, allowing Abrams to score.

In the bottom of the third inning, Marist gained momentum after McNamee, the starting pitcher, gave up a leadoff walk to Marist. Two batters later, senior Bill Rubright loaded the bases on a base hit to center field.

On the next at-bat, senior Jamie Taylor was hit by a pitch from McNamee, which gave Marist its first run scored. Marist would tie the game 3-3 on a 2-run RBI double by senior Patrick Duffy.

In the sixth inning with two outs on the board, senior Chris Cathcart got a base hit and on the following at-bat stole second base, putting him in scoring position. Senior Joseph Mannelly sent Cathcart home on a double to right field, giving Marist a 4-3 lead.

Mannelly said he wanted to do whatever he could during that at-bat to give his team a lead.

“We had two outs in that inning, one on second [base] and I was just trying to do my job to get him in,” he said.

In the seventh and final inning, starting pitcher Seb Thomas was sent back to the mound to finish the game. However, he gave up a leadoff double and junior Patrick Taylor was brought in for the save. Taylor and the Marist defense got the three outs to become state champions.

Mannelly said the way the championship series went was a reflection of their season.

“We got punched in the face a little bit to start [the season] off—and that’s been our character all year—to come back late, fight to every last second to win the ball game,” he said. “Thank God it finally paid off.”

Marist started the season 3-8, including six losses in a row. They were 0-3 to Blessed Trinity in the regular season. Mannelly said his teammates were also playing for bragging rights against a team they know very well.

“[They’re our] region rival, we all know these kids, know them so well,” he said. “It’s just awesome to be a part of [this rival].”

Mannelly and 11 other seniors closed out their high school career as champions. Strickland said the senior class has done nothing but lift the program and raised the bar.

“It’s tough to come into a program with a standard of excellence, but they have absolutely toed the line and given everything they have to it,” Strickland said.

Mannelly on closing out his senior year as a champion: “This is all I ever wanted. This is awesome.”

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