The Mintz Lions made school history on Saturday, winning their first varsity baseball championship with a 20-9 win over the Antioch Gators.
After defeating Berean Baptist Academy on Friday, the Lions were in prime position to defend their regular season title. Knowing they needed a strong offensive performance, that’s exactly what the Lions put on display.
After pitching the night before in a 20-10 victory over the Columbus Pacers, Antioch ace pitcher Jonathan Cox was not available to pitch against the high-powered Lions offense. The Gators started Caleb West on the mound and the Lions quickly took advantage of the inconsistent starter, storming out to an early 6-0 lead in their half of the first inning.
Defensively, the Lions kicked things off with several quick outs in the first and second innings to get their offense back on the field and hope to bring in more runs. Evan Plant led the way on the mound for MCA striking out four batters in his first two innings of work.
The Lions struck for two more runs in the bottom of the second when Trey Gainey brought in two runs with a double, giving the Lions an 8-0 lead with two innings in the book. The Gators’ starter, West, finally found the strike zone, striking out the next two batters to limit the Lion rally.
The Gators used the strikeouts as momentum in the third, plating a single run, cutting the Lions lead to 8-1. Mintz was unable to answer the Gators’ score in the bottom of the third going quietly as West continued to pound the plate keeping the Lion bats quiet.
The Lions would make a pitching change in the fourth inning, bringing senior Josh Davis to the mound. Davis allowed two more runs in the fourth as the Gators cut the Mintz lead to 8-3. Plant led off the Mintz half of the fourth with a double and advanced home on two sacrifice fly balls with Josh Davis picking up the RBI to stretch the Mintz lead to 9-3.
With time getting short, Antioch rallied, scoring six runs combined in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game, 9-9. The Gators got three runs in the fifth, one coming off a balk as the Mintz pitcher was confused by an early starting base runner and another off an errant catcher to first base throw after a dropped third strike. Davis struck out two but allowed three runs to cross before getting out of the inning as the Lions limped into the bottom of the fifth with their lead cut in half.
Mintz went down in order in the bottom of the fifth and the Lions coaching staff decided to go with the hard throwing Nate Small on the mound. Small struggled to find the strike zone, after giving up a lead-off single, Small beaned two batters batters and walked the third before the Gators rapped two singles to tie the score at 9-9. Plant got the call to return to the mound and answered it resoundingly, striking out the only batter he faced in the sixth to stop the bleeding.
With the Gators seizing the momentum, Mintz had to respond. After West walked the Lions first two batters of the sixth, Plant hit a three run home run to give the Lions a 12-9 lead with no outs in the sixth inning and chase the Gators starter off the mound. As Plant rounded the bases, the large contingency of Mintz fans roared for their team.
The Lions wouldn’t look back, scoring eight more runs as the Gators marched three different pitchers to the mound and none of them could find the strike zone, giving up six walks and hitting two batsmen to allow eight more runs to cross and invoke the mercy rule at 20-9.
“The boys didn’t give in and finished the job. It’s always a pleasure to see something that you have been working so hard for come to fruition,” said Aaron Underwood, head coach of the Mintz Lions. “The boys have worked hard all season and basically all of them have learned the game of baseball.”
“To start and finish so well this season and to have the first varsity championship for the school, it will be remembered for years to come. The students in the lower grades who get to play sports out here when they reach sixth grade, it can only encourage them to come to the baseball team,” said Underwood when asked how the championship influences the school and the athletic program.
The Lions finished the 2018 campaign with this championship, going 11-2 overall and 8-2 in conference play. Mintz recorded the most wins in school history and secured the top seed in the tournament on the way to winning its first ever varsity championship.