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Crenshaw Christian Academy Cougars head to playoffs

SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL: RAILEY AYERS

“Break his streak, break his streak,” was the audible cry heard from the Lakeside School’s infield during the sixth inning of their game on Tuesday, April 5. Defending state championship MVP, southpaw Kyler Weeks was stepping in the batter’s box, responding only with a grin of giddy humility. He was batting three for three so far, and the Chiefs had failed to get the junior out all season. The count reached 0-2, and the “Break his streak,” cries only became louder.

Weeks stepped out of the box, carved a cross in the dirt with the end of his bat, looked at coach Stephen Jacobs with the same humble confidence that he had before he walked out of the home dugout, stepped back in the box and hit another double.

“Four for four,” was then the only cry heard, this time from Crenshaw’s dugout. On the other side of the fence stood a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, shoeless five-year-old with a bow in her hair and a shirt that read “My Bubby,” with a number 26 underneath. Her hands pressed against the chain links as she yelled, “Strike him out again,” as her big brother, Clayton Hester, pitched yet another shutout. The sophomore boasted 12 strikeouts and allowed zero runs in a career performance that gave the Cougars a home advantage in the playoffs.

“I’m just thankful that God allows me to play the game that I love and live for- and as long as He does, I’ll be out here working for Him. This was a true team win and I’m so proud for the guys out here,” Hester said.

“There’s a lot to be said for guys like Kyler Weeks who went to the doctor for his shoulder earlier and still came out swinging away, or guys like Collin Holloway who have just jumped into a new position without question because that’s where we needed them most. All the glory goes to God for not only giving us the opportunity to win, but the will to win as well.”

Some dubbed this game “the turnaround,” and the Cougars are hoping that the spark from this game will stay ignited. However, some sparks have been aflame all year.

“Sometimes you just have to press forward with confidence,” coach Jacobs said.

“I know these guys are equipped to do just that and take us to another title game.”

Senior Collin Holloway is a good example of this. You may hear him encouraging his teammates from the dugout, see him send them all a Bible passage every night, or you might have seen him taking extra swings after a practice. You may have only heard of his leadership role, but to everyone who has witnessed, his role is inevitable – he claims four homeruns and 15 doubles, as well as playing multiple positions on defense. He leads the team with senior Caleb Tisdale, who has bounced from first base, to pitcher, to third base throughout the year.

“We had some setbacks with the team for sure, but we are still a strong team and we still have a shot to win it all again,” Tisdale said.

Finding a spark isn’t hard for this team; it can be found in junior centerfielder Nate Scoggins and his unparalleled base-running skills and power to hit opposite field. It may be found in the quiet confidence and speed in sophomore outfielder Ben Archie. You could find it in the toughness of freshman catcher Logan Johnson, who will not hesitate to stop a ball with his head without flinching. It is often found in sophomore relief pitcher Sam Barksdale, who has closed for multiple wins this season. It is also found in junior Cole Roper, who closely follows Holloway with three home runs on the year.

“I couldn’t ask for a better year, better teammates or better coaches,” Roper said. Crenshaw will travel to Patrician Academy for the second round of the playoffs, just as they did last year, and aim for the same results- a win.

“We had high expectations coming into this season after winning state last year. We started off a little rough, but we are on the verge of peaking at the perfect time for playoffs,” Holloway said.

The Cougars are hoping that their sparks ignite a flame on Thursday and help bring them one step closer to another visit to Patterson Field for state.

“We’re here, and we’re working for it. Abbeville isn’t winning three championships in one year. This one is ours,” chuckled Archie.