By Daniel Brunty
The Winston County Journal
The Nanih Waiya Warriors found themselves in a familiar position when they faced off against Greenville St. Joseph for the Class 1A State Baseball Championship this past week in Jackson.
They also were in the position of being defending champs as they took to the field at Smith-Wills Stadium. Hoping to halt the Warriors from winning back-to-back championships was the Fighting Irish of Greenville St. Joseph. The Fighting Irish, who captured the North Half Championship, were 20-2 overall in the regular season and undefeated in division play.
The first game of the series took place at 1 p.m. on May 16. The first run of the game would come in the top of the third inning from St. Joseph, giving them a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors would not answer back in the bottom of the third, and another inning would pass without either team scoring.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Warriors would make their move as they went on to put up four runs to take their first lead of the game. The big bat tandem of Hunter Swart and Tanner Dalton would come up big in the inning, with Swart hitting a two-run single and Dalton with an RBI double.
On the mound for the Warriors was their ace pitcher Colby Eaves, who took over the Fighting Irish batters with his repertoire of pitches. The Warriors would add to their lead in the sixth inning with another run. Greenville St. Joseph would manage one more run in the final inning to make the final score 5-2 Nanih Waiya.
Eaves would be a key in the Warriors’ victory, dominating by throwing a complete game with only two hits and an impressive 11 strikeouts in Game 1. Getting hits for the Warriors was Zach Hanna (2 of 2 at the plate), Stewart Ball (1 hit), Luke Rosamond (1 hit), and Ty Higginbotham (2 hits).
Only one game away from clinching their second championship, the Warriors played Game 2 on May 18 at 1 p.m. The first inning was a good one for the Warriors, scoring three runs to take an early 3-1 lead going into the second inning.
The second inning would be all Fighting Irish, as they took their first lead of the game by scoring four runs in the inning. Greenville St. Joe would have a 5-3 lead going into the third inning.
The next two innings would see the Warriors mount a comeback, scoring a run in the third and scoring four runs in the fourth to take a 8-6 lead going into the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Greenville St. Joe would get their offensive game going, putting up five runs in the inning.
The Warriors would be looking for run production in the next few innings, however, were stopped short by the Fighting Irish in both innings. The Warriors would also stop Greenville St. Joe from scoring in the last few innings, and the final score would be 11=8 Greenville St. Joe.
The series would be tied at a game apiece going into the final game. The original time and date of the game was May 21 at 1 p.m. However, the game was moved to May 22 at 4 p.m. at Smith-Wills Stadium.
With the Class 1A State Championship in baseball on the line, the Nanih Waiya Warriors took to the field on May 22 for their third game in their series against Greenville St. Joe at 4 p.m.
It was do or die time for both teams as each had won decisive games previously in the series. In the end, it would only matter who was better on this day to determine a champion.
The Warriors came out strong in the first inning, posting four runs to take an early lead.
On the mound for his final game as a Warrior, Colby Eaves came out strong as well, shutting out the Fighting Irish the first two innings of the game.
In the bottom of the second, Eaves would also produce on the offensive side of the ball, hitting an RBI to drive in teammate Hunter Luke, increasing the Warriors’ lead to 5-0 going into the third inning.
Down but not out, the Fighting Irish would get their first runs of the game in the top of the third inning, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 5-3.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Warriors would add another run to increase their lead to 6-3. Eaves would shut out the Greenville St. Joe batters again as the Warriors went into the top of the fifth inning.
Nanih Waiya would score two more runs in this inning, increasing the lead to 8-3. Greenville St. Joe made it a game, however, as they put up two more runs to make the score 8-6 going into the sixth inning.
The Warriors would extend their lead with another run in the inning to make the score 9-6. Knowing there was only one inning left, Greenville St. Joe made it a game, scoring two runs to cut the Warriors lead to 9-8 going into the final inning.
For most players, the way this game ended was something like a movie. The Fighting Irish were at bat at the top of the 7th inning, down one run to the Warriors. For the Warriors, they were three outs away from repeat championships, while for the Fighting Irish, they were one run away from tying the game or scoring two runs to win the game.
Eaves would get the first Greenville St. Joe batter to fly out. The next batter, Eaves would hit with a pitch and would advance to first base. The first base runner would try to steal second base, but would be thrown out.
Only one out away from capturing their second championshp, Eaves would force the next batter into a ground out and seal the victory for the Warriors.
As the Warriors celebrated the win, Nanih Waiya fans who have traveled long and far to see this moment took the time to enjoy it with the team.
Congratulations to Coach Tyler Rogers and his coaching staff on becoming back-to-back Class 1A State Champions. Thank you for representing the area of Winston County with your victory.