Meridian Star


May 24, 2014

West Lauderdale shuts out Purvis, snags 13th baseball title

PEARL — PEARL — Some teams wilt under high expectations. The 2014 West Lauderdale High School baseball team thrived under them.

After taking Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 4A state title series Thursday, 3-0, against Purvis High School Thursday, the Knights once again pitched a shutout en route to a 5-0 win and a state title Friday. The championship was West Lauderdale and head coach Jerry Boatner’s 13th title and it’s first since 2009.  

“There’s so much pressure on these kids to win a state championship,” Boatner said. “There was so much high expectations. This group was ranked No. 1 a lot during the year. Everywhere I go, people talk about how good we are and that we should win a state championship.

“To win a state championship after everybody talking about it, and the pressure that I feel and these boys feel, it’s a great feeling. I feel great for the boys.”

The Knights (33-2) rode the right arm of senior Ryan Lane and the hot bat of catcher Blake Anderson to victory.

 “Will Stokes and (Blake) Anderson get a lot of the publicity, but we consider him (Lane) to be an ace (pitcher),” Boatner said. “He hurt his arm in the second round of the playoffs last year and had Tommy John surgery a week later. He’s one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had.”

Lane (11-1) tossed seven strong innings, allowing just two hits while striking out five batters in earning the win. Additionally, Lane induced two ending inning double play ground outs.

“There’s no way I would be where I am if it wasn’t for God,” he said. “My physical therapist (Scott White), he did everything he could and then some, and if it wasn’t for his hard work then I wouldn’t be here.”

Added Anderson, “He’s the real MVP of this game. I know it feels it great to him, after being injured, and to pitch the final game.”

The Knights opened the scoring in the third. Left fielder McKain Ortlepp led off the inning with a single to left. Following a Fred Franklin fly out, Daniel Hill was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for Anderson. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Anderson smacked a two-run double to right field to give his team the early advantage.

“I’m just happy that I was able to do what the team needed,” Anderson said. “I was just trying to do whatever the team needed.”

Two batters later, shortstop Will Stokes sent a slow grounder to Purvis’ second baseman Brady Earlow, but his throw sailed wide of first and allowed pinch runner Tyler Lantz to score from second.

In the fifth, the Knights loaded the bases with one out for Reed Michel, who replaced Mason Wooldridge in second following an injury to Wooldridge’s left arm. Michel laced an infield RBI single off the glove of third baseman Nathan Roseberry.  

“I think this is the only game he’s played (as a position player) for varsity all year,” Boatner said. “We knew he could play defense, and he did a great job, and I’m real proud of him.”

The Knights tacked on their fifth run of the game when Colton McKeithen roped a single down the right field line that scored Hill.

Lane slammed the door on the Tornadoes in the seventh to secure the Knights a state championship.

“All those years of practice has paid off,” Anderson said. “Our attention to detail paid off, and it feels good to get rewarded after practicing something for so long.”

And with six seniors in the starting lineup of Friday’s state championship-clinching win,  playing alongside each other since they were in grade school has proven to be a rewarding experience for the champion Knights.

“We’ve been playing with each other since we were 6 years old,” Anderson said. “We played Phil Hardin (Youth Baseball League) together, and this is the biggest thing for us. This is something you think about on your first day of tryouts. It feels great to go out on top as a senior.”

Added Lane, “It’s something special. It’s something we will always look back to and feel good about.”

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