SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - For the third time in program history, and second time since 2014, the Benedictine Cadets are the state baseball champions.
Not bad for a team whose coach wasn't even sure what the team had this season.
The Cadets swept the Berrien Rebels in two games Monday night at historic Grayson Stadium to claim the GHSA Class AA state championship, taking advantage of timely hitting and a masterful performance on the mound from freshman Carter Holton.
"I'm just happy for the Savannah community, and of course for our Benedictine community," says head coach Kevin Farmer. "The boys played hard tonight. They showed a lot of grit. I'm just proud to be a Cadet. I'm thankful for all the fans support. It's just been a great night."
"We wanted it more than them. It was a dogfight to the end. We just wanted it more," senior outfielder John Thorpe says. "We put in more effort, put in more work during practice. We've been at this goal for I don't know how many years now. When [BC] won it my eighth grade year, I've wanted it ever since."
Holton pitched 7.2 innings over the two games, allowing just one hit while earning a save in Game 1 and the win in Game 2 with a complete game, one hit shutout.
"We fought as hard as we could until the last out," Holton says. "It feels great. I've got three more years to try and do it again."
Berrien head coach Doug Nix said he knew Holton would be tough to crack from scouting the Cadets, but added the BC freshman lived up to the billing.
"He's as good as advertised," Nix says. "I tip my hat to him. When he came in Game 1 and closed, we knew we were going to have our hands full."
It wasn't as easy as a two-game sweep might suggest. BC had to rally for a 6-3 Game 1 win, then needed three late runs to break a scoreless tie for a 3-0 win in Game 2.
The Rebels jumped out to a 3-0 lead after four innings in Game 1, and it could've been worse. A Berrien run was pulled off the board in the 3rd after a Benedictine appeal that a runner didn't touch home plate was upheld.
A two-RBI triple into the right field corner from John Thorpe tied the game at 3 in the fifth, then a two-RBI single from Johnny Richardson sparked another three-run burst in the sixth.
Game 1 starter Garrison Gunby continued to battle into the 7th, but was pulled after allowing two Rebel runners. Farmer called on his star freshman Holton to close it out. He did just that, striking out the final two batters on just six pitches.
Game 2 saw a scoreless stalemate for much of the evening.
Holton and Berrien starter Brock Jewell matched inning for inning until the Cadets broke through in the fifth.
Gunby drove in the first run of the ballgame with an opposite field RBI single. In the next at-bat, Holton made it 2-0 with an RBI single to right of his own. The Cadets added one more run in the inning on a sacrifice fly.
From there, it was Holton's game to close.
"We weren't hitting the ball at first, but we came through about the fifth inning," Holton says. "We started scoring runs, and that's all we needed."
Holton slammed the door over the final two innings, and the Cadets clinched the title with a ground out to second.
"There's a lot of chemistry, a lot of grit with this team," Farmer says. "They played their hearts out tonight. They played well. I'm proud of them."