Trenton, Chiefland to face off for state title

Jonathan Ward and Trenton will face Chiefland for the Class 1A state championship.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.

FORT MYERS — It's on, the rematch.

Trenton and Chiefland will play for a third time this season, this time for the Class 1A state championship.

The Tigers made today's rematch possible with a 4-1 win over Bonifay Holmes County Wednesday night in the state semifinals at JetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.

Earlier in the day, the Indians also won 4-1 over Panama City Bozeman in the other state semifinal.

Neither team had reached the state tournament previously, so today's championship game at 4 p.m. will also be a first for both.

Junior pitcher Jonathan Ward gave up just five hits and got some splendid defensive help from his teammates as Trenton improved to 26-1 on the season. The big hit came in the fifth inning when Kyle Wiggins, hitless in two attempts, crushed a ball to deep left, over the green monster and off a screen for a standup double, scoring two runs with two outs and putting the Tigers in firm control at 4-0.

The Tigers have yet to commit an error in the postseason, and got great fielding plays such as Michael Smith's catch of a liner in the second and throwing out the runner returning to first; Stephen Smith's backhand scoop at deep shortstop and throwing out the Blue Devil runner at first; and Cedric Stokes' running catch from deep right to short right.

“We played great, this is the way we play baseball,” said Trenton coach Todd Bryant. “We didn't do anything any different. We won 26 games playing just like the way we played. The kids came through. Jon Ward pitched a heck of a game, he threw strikes. I think the big momentum change was when they got one guy on and we played up and got out of it. Then the ball that Wiggins hit was a big hit and gave us a cushion.”

Up 2-0 after the first inning, Holmes County (22-8) threatened in the fourth when Ty Russ, a member of the school's state championship basketball team, led off with a double to left-center and moved to third base on a balk call on Ward. But a flyout to left, a groundout to shortstop and strikeout by Ward ended the threat.

In the fifth, after a strikeout and flyout against reliever Jordan Worthing, Hunter Parrish walked and Ward got his second hit of the game, moving Parrish to third. After Ward stole second, putting both runners in scoring position, Kyle Wiggins, with two strikes, ripped his pitch to left, padding the lead to 4-0.

“It felt so good to hit that,” Wiggins said. “I saw it and knew it was my pitch. I was hoping it was a home run.

“We have been working so hard all year, we are like family. We have been wanting this for a very long time and we finally got it.”

Trenton took a 2-0 lead in the first off Holmes County starter Ty Russ. Stephen Smith opened with a walk and Jonathan Smith followed with a single to left, moving Stephen Smith to third. A sacrifice fly from Hunter Parrish scored the first run, and Jonathan Smith came home on a wild pitch.

Ward, who had a double in the third, improved to 9-0 on the mound. Ty Russ (7-2) took the loss. Last year the Blue Devils lost to Union County in the 1A state final.

“It's exciting to come here with all my friends and get a win,” Ward said. “They had my back. It is just an amazing feeling right now.

“They have been doing this (tough defense) all season. That is part of the reason why we have so many wins.”

Todd Bryant said this is a special group of players, many who were part of the Tigers football team that played in the 1A state championship. A group he didn't feel was getting enough respect.

“This means everything,” he said. “These guys (Holmes County) scared me to death because they had great pitching. I think we surprised a lot of people who thought we won 25 games with a cushy schedule.

“This is a special group of kids.”

High stakes rematch

Today's Class 1A state championship baseball game will be a much-anticipated rematch in that Chiefland is the only team to beat Trenton this season.

And the Indians didn't just beat the Tigers. They embarrassed them on their own field, 15-2 on April 19, in the regular-season finale, spoiling Trenton's bid for its first unbeaten regular season.

The Tigers won at Chiefland, 5-1, on March 1.

“It is just another game for us,” said Trenton coach Todd Bryant. “In the last four years, we are 5-5 against each other. They are a great team. They wouldn't be here if they weren't a great team.”

Kyle Wiggins, who had a big hit Wednesday night for Trenton, said today's championship will be a tough game against a familiar opponent.

“They are a good team, it is going to be a challenge tomorrow night but I think we can pull it off,” he said. “I was actually rooting for Chiefland (against Bozeman).”

Indians coach Kyle Parnell has a lot respect for the Tigers, even after the lopsided regular season finale.

“They are awfully familiar with us, and we are familiar with them,” Parnell said. “They are a quality baseball team. They play good baseball.

“Being we won the last one, I know they want another shot at us. When we beat them I told the guys I expect Trenton to be in the state championship game, and your goal is to be there with them. That is the kind of respect I have for that team.”

The Indians have won eight straight, and freshman Trevor Castell says the win at Trenton was a turning point for his team.

“That was really when our team really took off,” he said. “That's was the big confidence boost that we needed.”

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