Warrior 12th year head coach Rob Scarbrough professed not to know much about West Lauderdale- Corinth's opponent in the 4A state championship series- minutes before game one of their best-of-three series. What he did know was that his team wasn't here for a pleasure trip.
No-- the Tribe was here to win.
Corinth jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead with Knights ace- and Alabama commit- Chance Denson on the hill. After allowing a pair of runs in the top of the third, Corinth scored two more in the bottom half of the inning to regain a three-run lead at 5-2. The Warriors turned two inning-ending double-plays in that span to help CHS starting pitcher Kyle Crigger out of a a couple of jams with runners in scoring position.
Corinth chased Denson after three frames before West Lauderdale head coach Jerry Boatner brought in diminutive sophomore Ben Ethridge to try and somehow slow the Warriors down. But in the end Corinth held on to claim game one 5-3 and move within a game of winning the 4A gold glove for 2017.
"Scoring three runs on their starter early like we did was huge," Scarbrough said after Crigger had recorded the final out of the contest when West Lauderdale's Braden Luke lined a soft grounder back to the mound.
Crigger signaled to fellow senior and first baseman Baylor Frazier that he would do the honors and stepped on the bag a couple of steps ahead of Luke to bring an end to game one.
Game two will be today at 1 at Trustmark Park.
The win didn't come easily for the Warriors and they knew it wouldn't. The Knights have won 13 state titles since 1976 under Boatner--now in his 44th year at the helm in Collinsville. They last won the gold three years ago and entered the game ranked No. 3 in the state while Corinth checked in at No. 7. But there's just something special about this CHS squad that belies confidence. It's like no matter what situation they find themselves in they feel they can work their way out of it.
To illustrate that point Crigger was faced with three bases-loaded situations and gave up no earned runs. The Tribe won this game despite committing six errors and being outhit 11-5. For most teams that would be the recipe for disaster but Corinth was able to handle the pressure in a park they had never played in before-- a park that houses a AA baseball team and has dimensions far beyond those found at Warrior Field.
Even though Corinth finds themselves leading the best-of-three series 1-0 Scarbrough assured the reporters surrounding him in front of the Warriors dugout on the third base line that he had already told his players that they need to forget this one and move on like they're playing from behind tomorrow.
"You've gotta play game two like it's game three," he warned. "West Lauderdale is too good a team to rest on our laurels and think we've won something yet. This day is over and tomorrow's a new day."
"They (Knights) put a lot of pressure on us today by putting the ball in play but Kyle did a good job of pitching out of hard situations and our defense did a good job getting outs when we had to have them."
Kerrigan Maness had a couple of uncharacteristic errors from his shortstop poistion but one of those was a simple case of the 'hurries' and being in a big-time pressure situation played a part as well. But Maness- the hero of the 4A north half title game last week against Ripley- redeemed himself again with a nice dig behind the second base bag and a beautiful sidearm throw to Frazier at first to end a late West Lauderdale threat.
The Knights put a runner on first in the first inning but Crigger got Tyler Lantz to ground into a double play to end the inning unscathed.
The Warriors plated three runs in the home half of the first and it all started after Crigger grounded out to Denson for out number one. Maness was hit by a pitch after which Jackson Lancaster tripled to center to score Maness. Lancaster's triple sailed over the head of Knight's centerfielder Cole Hurst and all the way to the wall 402 feet away. Hayden Scarbrough then flew out to rightfield for the second out of inning before Alex Trice singled to right to score Lancaster. Baylor Frazier followed with a single to put runners at first and second with two outs while Avery Davis singled to center to score Trice from second. Spencer Lee ended the inning with a ground out to second and the Warriors enjoyed a 3-0 lead.
West Lauderdale responded with a pair of runs in the top of the third to cut Corinth's advantage to 3-2 giving the Warriors and their hundreds of fans reason to be concerned.
However, as previously mentioned, the Tribe isn't easily rattled and bounced back with two more more in the bottom of the third to stretch their lead back to three runs at 5-2. They produced those two runs when Lee singled to right scoring pinch-runner Will Agnew from third and Scarbrough from second.
West Lauderdale added one more run in the fifth but couldn't produce anything in the top of the seventh needing two runs to extend the game.
"I knew our defense could make plays behind me and I was able to work out of some jams," Crigger said. "But I just told myself get outs--just get outs," he a6dded.
Lancaster will be on the mound today for game two as Corinth goes for the sweep and that long-overdue state championship.
4A State Championship Series/Game 1
Corinth 5 West Lauderdale 3
WLHS 002 010 0 - 3 11 2
CHS 302 000 x - 5 5 6
(WP) Kyle Crigger (LP) Chase Denson; Multiple Hits: (WL) Cole Hurst 3, Jordan Herrington 2, Jeremy Davis 2; 3B: (CHS) Jackson Lancaster
(Records) Corinth 29-8 West Lauderdale 31-3