Class 4A: Marist wins state title

Posted 5/20/2021

Marist players celebrate after sweeping Benedictine for the GHSA Class 4A state title Thursday night at Coolray Field.


Another state title

Marist sweeps Benedictine to win GHSA-leading 14th state crown

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By Tim Morse

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- Grey Taylor didn't even make it first base before he was mobbed by teammates.

Then a dogpile celebration erupted just behind first base.

Taylor's liner into center field Thursday night scored Champ Davis for the game-winning run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the War Eagles to a 2-1 victory and a series sweep of Benedictine in the Georgia High School Association Class 4A state baseball championship series at Coolray Field.

The walk-off win came after the War Eagles (33-9) got a pitching gem from Preston Larmore in a 5-0 victory in Game 1 of the series.

But the Game 2 victory will be one that will be talked about around Marist -- at least for a little while. The War Eagles loaded the bases off Benedictine ace and Vanderbilt signee Carter Holton in the bottom half of the seventh. Holton, who was saddled with his first pitching loss of the season, left with two outs to a standing ovation from the Cadet fans after reaching his pitch-count maximum.

Facing a new pitcher, Taylor took the first pitch looking for a strike, then his game-winning hit sent Marist players pouring from the dugout onto the field.

"That was a situation I wanted to be in my entire life," said Taylor, who finished three-for-three at the plate in Game 2. "In the (batters) box, I was just smiling."

Andrew Williams earned the victory in relief, working the final two-thirds of an inning. Starter Ryan McTighe was masterful, going six and third innings and allowing just a run on two hits.

The story of the series was Marist pitchers Larmore, McTighe and Williams, who combined to allow the Cadets (33-6-1) just a run on six hits.

Benedictine (33-6) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning in Game 2 when Kam Edge scored on a wild pitch. But Marist scratched home a run in the third. Andrew Mannelly walked and scored on Tyler Hare's RBI double.

McTighe matched Holton inning-for-inning until he was lifted for Williams in the top of the seventh.

Holton finished with 12 strikeouts but walked three, including an intentional pass to the final batter he faced to load the bases.

Second baseman Champ Davis said he knew it was over when the ball left Taylor's bat.

"We heard the hype and knew (Holton) was good," Davis said. "But we just kept coming and never quit."

In Game 1, Hare gave the War Eagles an early 2-0 lead when he smashed a two-run homer over the right field fence. Williams' RBI single made it 3-0 and it provided Marist with essentially all the runs they needed, especially the way Larmore was pitching. The right-hander allowed just four hits before yielding to Williams to close the door in the seventh.

The War Eagles added two more in the fifth and cruised in Game 1.

But getting the best of Holton in Game 2 was something that Marist coach Mike Strickland knew wouldn't be easy.

"The kids focused in practice and we knew an effort where we needed to get sharper and sharper as the game went along was what it was going to take to beat that kid," Strickland said. "These guys just keep coming to play."

And the end result was another state championship."