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Bethlehem wins second state title

Twice as Nice

POSTED: June 4, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Photo Courtesy Denise Walls/

Luke Allen pitched 1.2 innings in closing Game 2 and then a complete game in Game 3 for the win.

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It took a little bit longer than they may have hoped, as the championship series went all the way to Game 3, but the Bethlehem Christian Academy Knights are now and forevermore GISA Class-A’s baseball state champions.

"It says we can do it not just once, but we can do it twice when you do it back-to-back," Bethlehem athletic director Mark Barth noted. "There’s not a lot of schools can say they’ve won back-to-back state championships."

"They didn’t give up. They kept fighting after Game 1, which was a tough loss for us," varsity BCA baseball coach Colby May applauded after the win. "They just kept battling and got the key outs we needed in Game 2, and that just gave us a lot of the momentum we needed in Game 3."

Crisp Academy took Game 1 from the Knights 6-2 on Friday afternoon and nearly came back from a 7-3 deficit late in Game 2, but Bethlehem’s defense held on for the 7-6 victory despite the Crisp surge in hitting and a controversial play at the plate that would have tied the game in the seventh. The Knights were able to force the deciding match on Saturday afternoon by virtue of splitting Friday’s contest, even though it came down to the wire.

With the memory of Friday’s harrowing Game 2 still fresh in his mind, a six-run lead was not enough for the fans or the coaches to rest on. May, especially, was glad when the final out was recorded and the Knights could safely celebrate a state title.

"It was definitely a relief. Last year, they never made it to a Game 3. They blew out every team and won two games and that was it," May reminisced. "This year, the guys made it really interesting going to Game 3s and having tight games at the end, but them jumping up on top 7-1 was a relief, but at the same time, until the last out was made, anything could happen.

"Crisp was a good hitting team who could put the ball in play, so anything could happen, but I was really proud of the guys for battling and knowing that all the hard work they put in, it all paid off," May added. "To see the reward from that, it was really refreshing."

The delays kept coming for the eventual champions, though, as officials postponed Game 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. just to keep everyone waiting a little longer. Once the game got started, though, it went off with a bang.

Bethlehem got on the board first with a Jacob Parker two-strike, two-out single that scored Brad Toxen.

"That was the best we’ve been in a while, playing clutch baseball and getting clutch ABs and getting the outs we need and making 2-RBI hits with two outs, especially in a do-or-die last game of the season," May acknowledged. "You just can’t ask for any better.

"It was good to see, especially for the potential that these guys have. It’s really exciting."

Although the Knights had no way of knowing it at the time, the first run was almost all they would need to pull out the victory.

"That was definitely huge," May stated. "We strung our hits together and scored right off the bat, and that helped us set our momentum.

"It took the whole team. They played to their potential like they’re capable of playing."

The Knights rode a complete game from Luke Allen on the mound, paired with a second inning run and a three-run third. Allen gave himself some help and took advantage of multiple Crisp Academy throwing errors in the third to turn a routine double into an in-the-park homerun that scored PJ Klein and Brady Stewart.

"Colby was giving PJ the signal to put on the brakes at third, but he overran the sign he had so much speed on him," Bethlehem athletic director Mark Barth laughed. "That speed forced Crisp to make a bad throw and that let him score, and then another bad throw let Allen come in to score."

Bethlehem roughed up both of Crisp’s pitchers, getting Wessel out after four innings with two earned runs and four total runs on five hits.

Allen gave up seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts with just a single earned run. He also recorded a .750 strike percentage with 54 strikes on 72 pitches.

"Luke did a great job on the mound. He got three-up, three-down starting off. That right there gave us momentum," May mentioned.

Bethlehem would add three more runs late in the bottom of the sixth with Tanner Still scoring on a Stewart single to center, Toxen scoring on a pass ball and Stewart coming home on a Klein single to quell any thoughts of another rally like the near disaster that ended Game 2. Crisp picked up their only run of the day when Turner’s fielder’s choice got Holt at second but allowed McKinney to come in, which would help produce the final score of 7-1.

BCA ended Game 3 with seven runs on nine hits. Klein was 2-for-4 at the plate with one run and one RBI while Allen was 1-for-3 with a run and two RBIs. Brad Toxen also had a monster Game 3, as he was 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored. Toxen, Klein and Jacob Parker were the only Knights with multiple hits on Saturday as Parker had two hits and an RBI.

Over three games, the Knights outhit Crisp Academy 23-to-21 and outscored the Wildcats 16-to-13.

Despite winning a state championship on Saturday, the Knights were back to work on Monday with baseball camp at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. Even though they had just finished playing a strenuous three-game series, May says that he can still see pep in their step and a new confidence.

"They played the best baseball today that they’ve played all year. They played good baseball, and to see that confidence, especially with our younger pitchers who haven’t been throwing that much who have a lot of potential, it’s good to see," May noted. "They’ve really done a good job. After today, it’s really exciting to see.

"They grew a ton this past weekend, especially after Game 1 in a pressure situation and getting the clutch out in Game 2. All that combined, and coming out on top Saturday against a solid team, it’s good to see them in the right spot," May said. "We can’t take anything for granted, and they’re not. They do a good job staying humble through the wins and staying confident through the losses and learning from their mistakes, because they know that’s going to make them better."

That confidence will be especially important going into next season as the Knights will find themselves up in the highest classification in GISA.

"It brings a lot of momentum, and it’s exciting to see the guys come together and gel as a team and be a team," May noted. "I see a bright future for them coming into AAA. We have a lot of work to do, and there are some changes to be made, but I see good things ahead. Having another year under their belt this year with our coaching staff, that’s huge."

Bethlehem’s second consecutive baseball state title wraps up a landmark year for BCA sports with both the women’s volleyball team and the men’s basketball team advancing to the elite eight in their respective state tournaments. Plenty of track and field athletes also made a splash at the state meet, with Kevin Green wrapping up his second consecutive state title in the hurdles.

Much of this success, according to Barth, goes back to last season’s baseball championship.

"I think it’s contagious. They see those kids wearing rings, they all want one," Barth said.

With the whole school believing in themselves, and the baseball team believing in themselves, not to mention the entire baseball team returning as there were no seniors on the roster, May believes that good things could be coming for the Knights.

"It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but these guys like challenges," May stated. "I couldn’t be more proud of the guys."



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