By Mike Ridaught
Facebook & Twitter – @ThePrepZone
Chalk up another state baseball title for the North Central Florida area.
Last year, Lafayette (Mayo) won its first state baseball title in school history.
The Hornets, ranked 4th at the time in ThePrepZone.com state baseball rankings, won the FHSAA Class 1A state title with a 2-0 win against top-ranked Chiefland.
Williston won back-to-back 1A titles in 2014 and 2015 behind Austin Langworthy, who is now playing at the University of Florida.
Prior to that, Trenton won it in 2013 and Union County (Lake Butler) took home the title in 2012.
In fact, since the FHSAA put the Rural Division in place, all six state champions have come from the area.
On Thursday night at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, the Trenton Tigers continued the streak against a pesky Madison County team which was making its first-ever appearance at the state tournament.
The top-ranked Tigers edged the Cowboys, 3-2, to win the Class 1A state baseball title. It was their second state championship in the past five years.
Senior Michael Smith, who won his fourth state title (2 in football, 2 in baseball) gave Trenton an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an error by the Cowboys (19-11).
“Michael’s a seasoned veteran,” noted second-year Trenton coach Adam Burton. “He’s a hell of a competitor.”
Madison County scored twice in the bottom of the 4th inning to take the lead.
With two outs, sophomore Dilan Lawson hit a triple and then scored one batter later on an error at second base. The error opened the door as the Cowboys plated another run on an RBI single by junior Drew Annett for a 2-1 lead.
However, Trenton answered in the top of the fifth.
After loading the bases, back-to-back wild pitches brought home the tying and go-ahead run to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
The one-run lead was enough for junior Landon Kennedy, who tossed a 5-hitter and allowed no earned runs.
“He absolutely competed,” said Burton. “He got excited and dislocated his left shoulder in the second inning. He came out and threw strikes and gave us a chance to win.”
Kennedy was able to pop it back into place and finish the game in moving to 8-0 on the season.
“Before the game Coach Shannon (Smith) told me to finish every pitch and keep fighting because it was going to be a dog fight,” said Kennedy.
That it was.
In the bottom of the 7th with one out, 8th-grader Jacob Guthrie made a diving catch in right field to take away a hit. Then, Jatatvious Prince had a 2-out double and stole third to keep Madison County’s hopes alive.
With the tying run at third, Kennedy was facing a pitch count before getting Kris Allen to ground out to Kennedy on his 99th pitch of the game.
While Prince and Allen are seniors, there’s plenty of talent returning for the Cowboys to make another run in 2018.
“These guys made history,” said Madison County coach Terry Barrs. “The bar has been set high. We put Madison County baseball on the map.”
With only four seniors, Trenton will be among the favorites to make it back to Fort Myers and could see Madison County again.
The Tigers (27-1) will carry a 20-game winning streak into next season.