SEHSBC-champion Lewisburg Patriots nationally ranked coming off tournament championship

Photo Courtesy by: Louie Sanders

While the feeling of winning a championship has to be indescribable, one of the hardest things to do in sports is becoming back-to-back champions. That is what Lewisburg High School is  trying to conquer as the Patriots are back in full force coming off of their second Class 6A state championship last season in Mississippi. The Patriots are nationally ranked in multiple polls and coming off winning the inaugural Southeastern High School Baseball Classic this past week.

Lewisburg is currently ranked no. 17 in the nation according to the MaxPreps High School Baseball Rankings and no. 23 according to the NHSBCA/Baseball America Top 35 Rankings.

“I feel like so far we have had a really good start,” said Lewisburg baseball head coach, Rusty Cagle. “We’ve pitched it well, we need to throw a few more strikes, offensively we are a very balanced lineup and we have had a lot of different guys have big games on different nights and I think that is the strength of our team is it doesn’t have to be one or two guys it can be one through nine,” Cagle added.

Cagle began the Lewisburg High School baseball program in 2006 when the Patriots just had a JV team as a first year school. Lewisburg then added a varsity team in the spring of 2008 and with the help of Coach Cagle, have evolved into one of the top baseball schools in the state of Mississippi.

Coming off of last year’s MHSAA Class 6A state championship series that saw Lewisburg win their second state title in their 15-year history of the program, the Patriots are ready to make another run, attempting to win their third championship in under 20 years of the program’s existence.

“That’s something that every coach dreams of,” Cagle stated when asked about the possibility of winning back-to-back state championships. “Winning one is something but winning two would be an amazing thing. Winning with this group of kids would be a great way to go out,” Cagle added.

The Patriots are off to a hot start this season, as they are 16-3 through their first 19 games this season and coming off of a Southeastern High School Baseball Classic tournament championship.

This season’s Lewisburg roster has 14 players that are set to continue their baseball career at the next level with seven of them being committed to Division 1 programs. Out of the seven players committed to D1 programs, five of them on this year’s team are on the Patriots pitching staff. Those five players include seniors Cayden Baker (Baylor University), Gunner Gilmore (Air Force Academy), Stone McCaughey (Ole Miss), Matthew Osteen (University of Louisiana) and junior Talon Haley (Vanderbilt).

This season, Baylor-commit senior Cayden Baker has posted a 1.97 ERA and 27 strikeouts while facing 79 batters over 21.1 innings pitched so far this season. Junior Talon Haley has proved to be more than a valuable arm for the Patriots as he has thrown 34 strikeouts and only let up six hits on the season with a 1.17 ERA.

“We need to throw more strikes at times, but overall I think we have done really well on the mound, we strike out a lot of hitters,” said Cagle. “Their effect is when any of those five guys is on the mound I feel like we are hard to beat and I think it boosts morale of our team and guys play well with those guys on the mound,” Cagle added.

During last season’s playoff run, the Patriot pitchers allowed just 13 runs in nine games including 76 strikeouts in their run to the Class 6A state championship. Out of those nine games, two of them were combined no-hitters including in a shutout over Gulfport that helped clinch the championship and the other six were one-run games.

Though the Patriots bullpen gets a majority of the credit, their lineup at the plate can create headaches for opposing pitchers.

The Patriots have a combined batting average of .305 and have accounted for 146 hits, 107 RBIs and six home runs through almost the first 20 games of the high school baseball season. At the plate, the Patriots are led by senior Kody Gilmore who is hitting .448 on the season and has accounted for 26 hits and 18 RBIs so far this season, senior Stone McCaughey who’s batting .323, having 10 hits and seven RBIs on the season and Air Force-commit senior Gunner Gilmore who is batting .391 with 18 hits and 12 RBIs on the season.

Overall this season through 19 games, the Patriots have nine players who already have double-digit hits on the season and six players with more than nine RBIs, taking advantage of their opportunities at the plate.

Lewisburg is a veteran team, led by 16 upperclassmen including 13 seniors who are looking to repeat as state champions.

“I have a group of kids that have been through battles,” Cagle said. “They were last year and a lot of these kids played as sophomores when we were knocked out early in the playoffs.” “A lot of them have been through battles as sophomores and last year been through the ups and downs and the game threes and that kind of thing in the playoffs and they won a state championship,” Cagle explained.

The veteran leadership has proved to be a factor in favor of Lewisburg as the older players refuse to cave under pressure.

“Something I say to them a lot of the time is that they don’t panic, we have had some bad starts in games where we have given up a run or two in the first and they don’t panic or seem to be worried about it so it kind of makes me feel a little better,” Cagle added.

With a combination of experience in big games, elite pitching and capitalizing their opportunities at the plate, the Lewisburg Patriots are primed for another run at winning the state championship.


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