PEARL — If there was one player that St. Andrew’s wanted at the plate in crunch time, it was Banks Tolley.
And he delivered.
Tolley would hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to center to lift the Saints past North Pontotoc 3-2 in eight innings to claim the MHSAA Class 3A state championship on Thursday afternoon at Trustmark Park.
It is St. Andrew’s fifth state championship in school history and first since 1985.
“Pitching and defense wins championships. We didn’t hit much during the course of the series, but glad to get it,” said St. Andrew’s coach Mark Fanning. “We’ve been so close over the last few years and this one is for all those guys.”
In the bottom of the eighth Sam Roffwarg led off with a single to right. He would then be awarded second base on a obstruction call.
Avery Thomas would then single, advancing Roffward to third, and then Tolley hit the walk-off sacrifice fly to center to win it for St. Andrew’s (33-6).
C.J. Carron (9-2), a Rhodes College signee, got the win on the mound for the Saints by tossing a complete game and giving up just two hits, two earned runs, walking three and striking out eight.
“To start the game I was in a zone and I could place my fast ball, but later on I had to use my off speed,” Carron said. “To be honest I thought I was at the limit of pitches after the seventh, but coach asked if I had one more inning left so I’m glad he left me back out and was able to finish it out.”
Thomas and David DuCote had two hits each to lead St. Andrew’s offensively.
“Our defense has been phenomenal all season and timely hitting has been as well,” Carron said. “We’ve been so close over the last few years and to finally win it and it being my senior year is just awesome.”
North Pontotoc would take a 2-0 lead in top of fourth on RBI singles by Hence Hooper and Ty Roberson.
St. Andrew’s would respond in the bottom half of the inning on a Carron sacrifice fly and RBI double by DuCote.
“I think these one run ball games we’ve had throughout the playoffs helped our mental toughness,” Fanning said. “C.J. did such a good job on the mound and being a senior he’s won a lot of games for us. Guys had tremendous confidence in him because he always gives us a chance to win and he did again today.”
Clark Mills (0-1) took the loss on the mound for North Pontotoc (25-7), who is still seeking first state title.