Tallulah Academy’s championship quest falls short with Game 3 loss to Manchester
Published 12:19 am Sunday, May 21, 2023
TALLULAH — With every hit that fell in, every run that crossed the plate, every chant from the opposing fans, Tallulah Academy’s misery increased a little bit more.
The Trojans had a great year, and a memorable playoff run. But they’d saved the worst for last and couldn’t do much more than endure the pain and heartbreak as they grinded through the final few innings of their season.
Brodey Walker piled up 13 strikeouts on the mound, and went 4-for-5 with four RBIs at the plate to lead Manchester Academy to a 13-1 rout of Tallulah Academy on Saturday to win the MAIS Class 3A baseball championship.
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“I think we just weren’t all there. We weren’t ready to play — at all,” Tallulah first baseman Hayes Hopkins said. “Our batting wasn’t there, our fielding wasn’t there. We had a lot of errors. That’s about all you can blame it on. Our coaches got us ready. It just happens.”
The crushing loss in Game 3 of the Class 3A finals marked a brutal finish to an otherwise great season for Tallulah Academy. It finished with a 25-8 record, won two Game 3s in the playoffs and forced a third by winning on the road against Manchester on Thursday. This trip to the state finals was its second in three years.
“25-and-8 for the season? That’s a pretty good year. You can’t just dwell on this,” Tallulah coach Stuart King said.
The Trojans shouldn’t, and not just because they might lose sight of all they did accomplish. If they dwell on it too long they might have nightmares.
Manchester (35-6) scored its first run just five pitches into the game. Leadoff batter Mills Paul reached on an error, then scored when Walker ripped a double to the gap in left center field.
The Mavericks loaded the bases, but Tallulah got out of the jam when Brayson Morson caught a fly ball and fired a strike to home plate to throw out courtesy runner Grant Nixon as he was trying to tag up and score.
Manchester left two runners on base in the second and third innings, then started to pull away in the fourth. A passed ball and a throwing error allowed two runs to score and led to a third to make it 4-0. Another error in the fifth inning, along with RBI singles by Paul and Walker, helped push it to 9-1.
Manchester then got four consecutive singles in the sixth inning to make it 13-1 and cruised through the last two innings.
“Defensively, when they hit it you need to give them three outs and get in the dugout. It all multiplies,” King said.
Tallulah committed five errors in the game, and had a handful of other baserunning and mental mistakes that kept Manchester rolling. It was one of their worst outings of the year, at the worst possible time, made even worse by being on their home field and on the biggest stage.
“It’s hard to watch, but you’ve just got to play through it,” Hopkins said.
Despite all of that, King pointed out that the Trojans were one of the last two teams playing in Class 3A and tried to put a philosophical spin on things.
“You can’t win one if you don’t get here. We forced it to the third game and that’s all you can ask of them, and then once you get here you flip a coin,” King said. “We knew that with their lefty we needed to keep it close where maybe one clutch hit can make a difference. When we closed it, we had a chance. But they rolled the ball well. That’s the way baseball is.”