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Emotional week ends in PCA loss

Porters Chapel Academy coach Randy Wright walks toward the fence lining the third base line as a PCA cap with “Bubba” embroidered on the back sits on the fence. PCA assistant baseball coach and athletic director Bubba Mims died of a heart attack on Sunday. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[5/21/04]The players on the Porters Chapel Academy bench stared in shock and wide-eyed disbelief at the scene unfolding in front of them.

Out on the field their field a coach was getting doused with ice water, teammates were dogpiling on top of each other, and doing all of the normal things associated with winning a state championship.

A year ago, the Eagles had gotten to do the same thing on someone else’s field. This time around, Heidelberg Academy returned the favor and all the Eagles could do was sit and watch.

Brooks Lewis held PCA (27-3) to three hits, walked three, and struck out 14 to help Heidelberg (29-0) cap an undefeated season with a 6-0 victory in Game 2 of the Academy-A state championship series.

Heidelberg swept the best-of-three series, avenging last year’s state championship series loss to PCA. The Rebels also beat PCA in the 2001 state finals, making this their second championship in four years.

“We got beat by a team on a mission,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “They had a great season. Heidelberg Academy took it to us these two games, and that’s all there is to it. They came out and beat us. They played better in the two games and they put it on us.”

PCA’s series-clinching victory last year came at Heidelberg, and the Rebels had not won at PCA in two previous tries. Ending that streak was one of the Rebels’ goals, coach Tom Lewis said.

“It was a special thing because they had come to our place last year and beat us, and we had never won on this field,” Lewis said. “It’s just great. The guys have been focused and dedicated all year.”

The series concluded nine days after it began, thanks to a string of rainy days that dumped nine inches of rain on the city, and ended one of the toughest weeks in the history of Porters Chapel Academy. On Sunday, beloved football coach and athletic director Bubba Mims died of a heart attack at his home.

Mims was also an assistant baseball coach. He had coached many of the PCA players in football or youth baseball, and had two sons on the team. The Eagles said they wanted to win a state championship for Mims, but in many ways just returning to the field this week was a victory.

“I haven’t been getting much sleep. I was really exhausted,” said PCA center fielder Gerald Mims, one of Bubba Mims’ sons. “We’ve got a lot of heart, though, to come out here and play. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Handmade signs posted all around the field and dugout urged the Eagles to concentrate on baseball and put the adversity behind them, but they offered little advice on how to hit Brooks Lewis or avoid the mistakes that plagued them throughout the series.

PCA committed 14 errors in the two games including 10 in Game 1 and had a total of five hits. Heidelberg outscored PCA 18-2, but only four of the Rebels’ runs were earned.

“We just really beat ourselves these two games,” said PCA infielder Humphrey Barlow, who committed two errors in the series but did have a double for one of PCA’s three hits on Thursday. “It was real disappointing. The bats were quiet, we didn’t play anything like we did all year, and we just weren’t the same team we were all year.”

Lewis won both games, striking out 25 batters in 14 innings. In Game 2, PCA didn’t advance a runner past second base and didn’t have a leadoff batter reach base until the bottom of the seventh.

Wright said some the Eagles’ rustiness was caused by the rain they’ve had only two practices since beating Franklin for the South State title on May 7 but Lewis had more to do with it.

“Their pitcher did a great job. He mixed up his pitches very well and we just didn’t hit the baseball in this series,” Wright said.

Heidelberg took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Mason Key, and Lewis did the rest.

He struck out the side in the first and second innings, with Josh Gain’s single mixed in, and sucked a lot of the emotion out of the Eagles. Heidelberg tacked on a pair of unearned runs in the third to stretch the lead to 3-0, and PCA never recovered.

Lewis allowed base runners in all but the first inning, but never got in serious trouble. He walked Quimby to start the seventh, then got a fly out and two strikeouts to end the game. Almost fittingly, the final out came when Gerald Mims swung and missed at a high fastball.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Mims. The kid lost his father, and I wouldn’t want to lose my daddy. He had a lot of guts just to play,” said Brooks Lewis, who said that he would rather have retired another player for the final out. “I really didn’t want to see him up there, but I knew I had a job to do.”