It was a typical Marist moment. So subtle that the casual onlooker probably missed it.
But for Marist baseball coach Mike Strickland, it was the defining moment for the War Eagles on their way to a sweep of Lakeside Evans for the Class AAAA state championship.
Marist led the best-of-three series 1-0 after Evan Geist struck out 10 batters en route to a 5-0 win in the opener.
Then it happened. Lakeside Evans opened Game 2 with a double, then put runners on first and third with no outs. But War Eagles’ pitcher Blake Stevens pitched out of the jam and allowed no runs.
“They lead off with a double and get going after we shut them out in the first game,” Strickland said. “Then we get out of it with no runs. You have to look at that and say ‘wow.’ It was pretty significant.”
Significant, but typical of a Marist team that won its last seven playoff games to claim the championship. The War Eagles (30-8) went on to beat Lakeside Evans 11-7 in Game 2 to claim its first state baseball title since 2003. It was Marist’s 11th state baseball championship, more than any other high school in Georgia.
“They took pride in the fact that we had to answer the bell like that on numerous occasions and they embrace that,” Strickland said. “They picked themselves up in the semifinals, too. (Brandon) Liebrandt stranded the leadoff runner at third against Whitewater. Doing things like that is what it means to be Marist baseball.”
Even after getting out of the first-inning jam in Game 2, the War Eagles had to rally after falling behind 4-2. A two-run home run by Anthony Sherlag put the War Eagles ahead at 5-4 in the bottom of the third. Then a three-run homer by Chesny Young in the fourth stretched the lead to 8-4. The War Eagles held on for the win the rest of the way.
Geist showed no rust despite not pitching since the second round of the state tournament. Strickland pitched Geist for five innings in a scrimmage after the quarterfinals and had him up in the bullpen in the semifinals.
Geist, a Florida State signee, ended his senior season with an 8-1 record, including three complete-game wins in the postseason. He had an earned run average of 1.85 and struck out 83 batters in 52 innings.
“I was thrilled that he served up that kind of performance in his last effort as a Marist War Eagle,” Strickland said of Geist’s Game 1 masterpiece.
Strickland also was pleased with the way the War Eagles’ entire playoff run was a team effort.
Sherlag was 4-for-6 with three RBIs against Lakeside Evans. Trey Cotney had two hits in the first game while Brett Dolan, Andy Perez, Sherlag and Patrick Sullivan all had two hits each in the clincher. Stevens earned the win in Game 2, allowing nine hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. Juniors Jack Southers and David Bourbonnais combined to keep Lakeside Evans off the scoreboard the final 1 1/3 innings.
Strickland also praised the play of Mitchell Anderson and Kash Manzelli at first base, and Daniel Spingola and Georges Durot in right field.
“It was 21 guys that were turning the wheels,” Strickland said.
Typical Marist baseball.