BOONVILLE — Starmount’s conference baseball schedule began with a game against county rival Forbush at home.
It ended that way also, but with much different results.
While Forbush powered to a 12-2 win over the Rams back on March 17, Starmount got in the last word, beating the Falcons 5-2 in Friday night’s Mountain Valley 2A Conference championship.
Tyler Howard and Justin Snow hit home runs, and ace pitcher Tyler Jackson collected the win in his last MVAC start. After the final out, the Rams accepted trophies for both their regular season and tournament titles, while Jackson picked up his second straight conference Player of the Year award.
All in all, a satisfying night.
“We were supposed to be the best team in the conference, so we wanted to make sure we ended it on a good note,” Starmount coach Mike McCann said in an interview Sunday night. “The kids were real focused. We had great practices last week. You could tell it was all business.”
The title game had no bearing on state playoff seeding. Starmount was already assured of being the Mountain Valley’s No. 1 by winning the regular season outright. Forbush’s win over Wilkes Central in Thursday’s semifinals gave them the guaranteed No. 2 spot.
But Friday’s finale still meant plenty to players, coaches and fans alike. A standing room only crowd filled the Rams’ baseball complex for the all-Yadkin final.
Forbush began the game with Jarrett Mullins ripping a double to the gap in right-center against Jackson. But the Rams eventually wiped Mullins off the base paths at third on a 6-5 fielder’s choice. Forbush didn’t score in the frame.
Jackson went on to strike out the side in the top of the second inning, and Starmount took the lead for good in the bottom half of the second.
After Jackson popped out, senior catcher Tyler Howard bashed a home run over the 360 sign in right center. Dillon Dobson hit one just a few feet short of the fence for an out, but Justin Snow followed with an opposite field home run to left to give the Rams a 2-0 lead.
Starmount hit four home runs in its two MVAC tourney games. Jackson and Sam Coe hit balls out Thursday against Surry Central.
“We haven’t been a home run team all year,” McCann said. “Then the last two games, we hit four. We don’t live off the big ball. We play small ball, just make contact. Justin Snow hasn’t pulled one (to left) all year. He pulls it Friday and it goes over the fence.”
Jake Barr kept Starmount alive in the second inning and eventually scored his team’s third run with heads up base-running. Barr technically struck out for what would have been the third out. But Forbush dropped the third strike. An error on the throw to first allowed Barr to reach base successfully.
After Chris Andrews was hit by a pitch, Derrick Wishon beat out an infield single. While Forbush was concentrating on trying to nab Wishon, Barr raced around from second base to score.
The lead grew to 5-0 in the third inning after a two-run single through the middle by Howard. Caleb Pardue had walked ahead of Howard, and Tyler Jackson got aboard as well when his pop up was misplayed in the outfield.
Howard’s hit chased Forbush starter Mickey Andrews. Credit reliever Brett Baity for getting out of that inning unscathed and keeping the Rams off balance the rest of the game.
But the five-run deficit, with Jackson on the mound for Starmount, proved too tough even for the Falcons — one of the conference’s top hitting teams — to overcome.
Cole Hensley batted home one run for the Falcons in the top of the fourth inning, scoring Justin Williams. Forbush got its other run in the top of the sixth after an RBI double by Williams scored Adam Saunders.
Great defensive plays by Howard from behind the plate kept Forbush from getting anything else in the late innings.
Howard gunned down one Falcon runner trying to take third base on a passed ball in the fifth inning. In the sixth, Hensley singled to right field, and Sam Coe threw the ball back in to Howard, who then turned and fired to short stop Dillon Dobson, nabbing Hensley at second. That played ended the inning. Forbush would have had two runners in scoring position had Hensley arrived to second safely.
• • •
Both Starmount and Forbush have had this entire week off from game action to get ready for the state playoffs. Both will be at home Friday night when the 2A state tournament begins.
The Rams open against the No. 5 seed from the Central Carolina Conference. That could be Ledford or Providence Grove, depending how the CCC’s tournament concluded Tuesday night. Starmount lost to Ledford in the fourth round of the playoffs last spring.
If Starmount wins, it will play again on Tuesday, also at home.
“Because our conference has the highest seed priority, we could play at home all the way up to the state championship,” McCann said.
But the coach wouldn’t allow himself to think that far ahead for too long.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” he said.
Forbush will host the No. 3 seed from the Rocky River Conference. The Falcons most likely would face the Central Carolina champion should they advance to round two.
• • •
In addition to Tyler Jackson, Starmount put Tyler Howard, Sam Coe, Derrick Wishon and Jake Barr on the all-conference team. Chris Andrews, Caleb Pardue and Justin Snow were honorable mention.
Mike McCann was voted coach of the year.
Forbush all-conference players were Jarrett Mullins, Adam Saunders and Mickey Andrews, with Ryan Doss and Justin Williams as honorable mention.
• • •
Adam Saunders earned a complete game win for Forbush in its 7-2 semifinal triumph over Wilkes Central. Saunders and the Falcons kept the Eagles off the board after the second inning.
Forbush had five players with multiple hits — Jarrett Mullins (2-for-4, 3 RBIs), Mickey Andrews (2-for-4), Clint Hunter (2-for-3), Samuel Brawley (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) and Ryan Doss (2-for-3, 1 RBI). The Falcons took command early, scoring four runs in the second inning and two more in the third.
“Both teams were able to get runners on base, and we were fortunate enough to get key hits with runners on base,” Forbush coach Jerome Cannon. “Adam did a good job of keeping the ball around the plate and we got a key double play in the sixth.”
Starmount 5, Forbush 2
MVAC Championship Game • Friday • at Boonville
Forbush 000 101 0 — 2 6 0
Starmount 032 000 x — 5 8 2
WP: Tyler Jackson; LP: Mickey Andrews
HR: Tyler Howard (S) and Justin Snow (S). 2B: Tyler Jackson (S), Jarrett Mullins (F), Justin Williams (F), Mickey Andrews (F).
Leading hitters: FHS — Justin Williams 2-3, RBI; Cole Hensley 2-3. SHS — Tyler Howard 2-3, 3 RBIs; Justin Snow 2-2, RBI.