Rebels sweep Raiders to win state title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

At the conclusion of last Wednesday&8217;s 13-1 state championship win over Shelby Academy, all the Coosa Valley Academy players could think of was a ring.

&8220;Extra large, coach,&8221; one player yelled out his exaggerated ring size to Coosa Valley Rebels&8217; head coach Kevin Oakes.

The excitement was fresh, as the Rebels captured their first-ever baseball state championship with a dominating presence from the mound and plate. Pitchers Michael Klinner and Zac Taylor combined for 21 strikeouts in two games, while the Rebels&8217; bats had 21 hits to drive in 21 runs.

Coosa&8217;s dominating fashion began ast Tuesday at Huntingdon College, where Klinner shut out the Shelby Raiders 8-0 to take a one-game lead in the series. Klinner came close to allowing a run only once, but his relay throw to home plate with one out in the first inning Tuesday, eliminated the run and the Raiders&8217; chances.

&8220;It builds confidence after you do something like that, and after that we just kind of ran with it,&8221; Klinner said.

Run with it they did, as Klinner went on to strikeout five straight and a total of 12 in the game. The Rebels&8217; Chase Ward broke out of the gate in game one with a 3-for-4 day, including a 3-RBI double in the sixth inning to help break the game open.

Ward, who was later named tournament MVP, performed in a similar manner on Wednesday, also going 3-for-4.

However, Wednesday belonged to Taylor, who helped himself earn the win, by ripping three hits, including a two-run double in the fourth inning.

Taylor, who was dominate on the mound against Shelby Academy for most of their previous two meetings, struggled early, allowing Shelby&8217;s JoJo Tidmore to reach base on an error to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Jeremy Ogles later drove Tidmore in to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead. But Taylor settled down to retire opposing pitcher Cody Jones on strikes. Coosa Valley responded with two runs in the second and five in the fourth.

&8220;After we got up on them, I stopped trying to strike everybody out. I just wanted to get outs. I didn&8217;t want to give them an opportunity to get on base,&8221; Taylor said.

The Rebels added a six-run sixth inning to move ahead by 12 runs and force the mercy rule.

Upon Taylor&8217;s final strikout, players and fans stormed the pitcher&8217;s mound.

After falling short by one game last year to Clark Prep, the dream was now a reality.

&8220;Last year, no one expected us to be there, and we probably got there a year too early. I&8217;m not taking anything away from Clark Prep, but we weren&8217;t ready last year,&8221; Oakes said. &8220;The better team won it last year, but the benefit to that is that the better team won this year.&8221;

After the initial celebration, Oakes pulled his team together in the outfield grass one last time this season.

&8220;Guys, you&8217;ve done something that nobody in the history of Coosa Valley has ever done. I don&8217;t care how many come behind you that may do it, you&8217;ll always be first and nobody can take that away from you. Hey, we&8217;re going to go get the rings,&8221; Oakes said. &8220;I&8217;ve told you a hundred times, win together now and walk together forever.&8221;