The St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Saints baseball team hosted the St. Patrick Catholic High School Irish in the third game of their first round playoff series in Ridgeland, Miss., on Monday, May 1, 2023. Photo by Chris Todd

By Robert Wilson
Photos by Chris Todd

       RIDGELAND – Mark Fanning has been the head baseball coach at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School since 1998 – he believes he is the longest tenured coach in the state at the same school – and he has seen many playoff games not gone the Saints way over the years.

       St. Andrew’s is considered of the top small school baseball programs, but Fanning has won only one state championship, in 2018.

       This year’s team is like many of the others – no superstars, but a group of solid players who have played baseball most of their lives – and has a shot of making some noise in the playoffs.

        It seems like traditional powerhouses like Sumrall, Mooreville, Taylorsville, and Richton with star players get in the way of St. Andrew’s making another title run, but if they play clutch baseball like Monday night this might be the year.

       St. Andrew’s defeated St. Patrick 12-2 to win Game 3 and the best of three series in the first round of the MHSAA Class 3A state playoffs before an estimated 250 at St. Andrew’s’ Barkett-Cummings Field.

       St. Andrew’s – with only one senior on its roster – improved to 21-9 and has won the most games since the 2018 title season when the Saints went 33-6.

       St. Andrew’s now plays Southeast Lauderdale Wednesday in the first game of the best of three series in the second round at 6 p.m. at St. Andrew’s.

       St. Patrick, which finished 14-15, won Game 1 9-2, but St. Andrew’s – facing elimination – took the three-hour ride to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and defeated St. Patrick 7-0 Friday behind junior right-hander Carter Everett’s three-hit complete game and sophomore leftfielder Stone Myrick’s three hits. Everett improved to 6-0 with the win.

       Game 3 was scheduled for Saturday, but all-day rain postponed it until Monday night.

       Leadoff hitter and junior starting pitcher Friend Walker was the offensive star with three hits, including an inside the park grand slam in the fourth inning as St. Andrew’s took a 5-1 lead. Walker hit a line drive to center field and St. Patrick center fielder Cohen Wienhofer made a gallant dive for the ball, but missed it and it went to the wall, enabling Walker to score for his first home run of the season and sent the Saints fans into a frenzy. Walker finished with five RBIs.

       St. Andrew’s scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for the 10-run rule and clinch the victory.

       “This series was very similar to many in the past,” said Fanning, a Newton County High, East Central Community and Mississippi College alumnus who took the St. Andrew’s job right out of college. “We did not play great in Game 1 and lost at home, but our players had a lot of fight and belief in each other and responded by coming back to win the series. Our program has never been filled with lots of superstar players, but we have always had players who work really hard and have an incredible desire to succeed. Our talent level is usually pretty good and most of our players have grown up playing a lot of baseball. Our players are used to winning and expect to find a way to win. We hope to keep playing well and to continue to advance in the playoffs.”

       Right-hander Andrew Carron – whose brother CJ was one of the star players on the 2018 state championship team – was the winning pitcher. Carron came in relief of Walker and pitched 2 1/3 innings. Myrick – a transfer from Madison-Ridgeland Academy – closed the game with 2/3 of an inning of no-hit relief. Carron, the only senior on the team who is playing at Division III Rhodes College next season, improved to 7-4 this season.

       Myrick and junior right fielder Callan Baldwin had two hits. Myrick also had three RBIs. Junior third baseman Walker Van Meter hit a home run. Walker, Van Meter, Baldwin and junior second baseman Boyd McCullough scored two runs each.

       Although he didn’t have a big game Monday night, junior center fielder Rolen Fanning – son of Coach Fanning – has been one of the Saints’ top players this season. Fanning and Van Meter are tied with a team-high 38 hits.