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Eagles have eyes on first state championship

[05/17/01] By any standard, Porters Chapel Academy has had a great season.

The Eagles have won 22 games and gone further into the playoffs than any team in school history.

But if the Eagles can’t win their last game Friday at Heidelberg, none of those accomplishments will mean much.

PCA (22-11) leads the best-of-three Academy-A championship series 1-0 and can win its first state title with one win. Game 2 of the series will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by Game 3, if necessary.

The Eagles needed a late comeback and Trey White’s dramatic home run in the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday to escape with an 8-7 win.

PCA coach Randy Wright doesn’t expect the rest of the series to get any easier.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult. This is the state championship. We’ve both got our backs against the wall and Friday is the day,” Wright said.

“They’re a battling team, and we’re going to have to go down there and battle with them. They’re not going to give up and we’re not going to give up, and it’s going to be tough.”

White (3-5) will start Game 2 for PCA.

He has been effective in relief in the playoffs, going 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in three games, but this will be his first start. He has contributed more to PCA’s playoff run with his bat.

The senior utilityman has gotten at least one hit in five of PCA’s six playoff games and is hitting .364 with two doubles and seven runs scored.

“It’s just coming in there real slow,” White said. “Even when I strike out, I’m seeing (the ball) well.”

Heidelberg (19-5) coach Tom Ainsworth wasn’t sure who he would start in Game 2, saying only that it wouldn’t be Game 1 loser Matt Culberson. PCA tagged Culberson (8-1) for 10 hits and five earned runs in eight innings to give the senior right-hander his first loss of the season.

“I’d rather not say right now,” Ainsworth said when asked about his Game 2 starter Tuesday night.

Whoever Ainsworth decides on, Wright said he was expecting another slugfest.

The Rebels and Eagles hit each others’ aces hard, and the second line of pitchers may fare no better.

“I anticipate (Heidelberg) hitting the ball hard, and we’re going to have to play defense and score runs to get out of there with a state championship,” Wright said. “I don’t think we have anybody that’s going to go in there and throw a no-hitter … .”

Ainsworth said the challenge for his squad was to stay focused after a potentially devastating loss.

“I told them to keep their heads up. We just lost a close ballgame, but it takes two to win a series,” Ainsworth said.

The challenge for PCA is to not look too far ahead. With a title so close, it can be easy for a team to think too much about the victory celebration instead of how to make sure it happens.

PCA pitcher Heath Smith said the close win, coupled with Wright’s constant lectures about staying focused, should keep the team on the right path.

“Now we know if we get behind they can’t just put us away,” Smith said.

“We’ve got fight in us just like they’ve got fight in them. It comes down to who wants it more.”