Northpoint takes home Tennessee baseball state trophy
Photo: Northpoint Christian School Trojans pose for a photo after winning the TSSAA D2-A state baseball championship. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
A high school state baseball championship trophy is returning home to DeSoto County, as the TSSAA Division II-A title was won Thursday by the Northpoint Christian School Trojans.
Northpoint edged Goodpasture Christian School (Madison, Tenn.) 6-5 in a game played at Middle Tennessee State University’s Reese Smith Jr. Field.
In its third straight appearance in the state championship round, coach Stephen Kirkpatrick’s Northpoint team finally took home the trophy that had eluded them the past two years, taken away last spring by the same Goodpasture Cougars team in the finals.
“They did an amazing, amazing job,” Kirkpatrick said of his team. “The fans earned their entry fee, whoever paid to watch this game. These were two absolute titans of baseball going at it here.”
The Trojans won Thursday’s game despite getting only four hits off Goodpasture pitchers Luke Vierkant and Sam Knotts. But one of those hits was a bases-clearing double from Conner McKnatt in the top of the third inning that gave the Trojans a three-run cushion at the time at 5-2. Rob Hayes, KL Farr and pinch hitter Caleb Crowder also singled for Northpoint.
Goodpasture, meanwhile hurt their own cause with four errors in the loss. By contrast, Northpoint was charged with one error the entire tournament, a miscue in Thursday’s victory.
It was the second straight win over the Cougars for the Trojans, which won 4-1 Wednesday to reach the championship round of the double-elimination through the winner’s bracket. Goodpasture recovered late Wednesday with an 8-0 win over Silverdale Baptist Academy to reach the finals.
After Northpoint opened the game with a 2-1 lead after one inning, Goodpasture tied the contest at 2-2 in the second. But, the Trojans responded with a four-run third, punctuated by McKnatt’s double for a 6-2 advantage.
“It was showing the other team that if they put up a run, we wouldn’t get down on ourselves and we’re coming back,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was showing that we could score runs.”
Goodpasture would start chipping away, however, getting two runs in the third and one more in the fourth for what would become the final score, as defenses buckled down the rest of the way.
McKnatt had the big hit for Northpoint in the third, but came up big with two incredible catches from his left field position later in the contest, one against the left field wall, and another diving catch that prevented a run from scoring.
“They were scoring every inning, so I thought if we made a couple good plays and made the routine plays to hold them to zero, that would be the key to us winning the championship there,” McKnatt said.
“Conner McKnatt has just gotten better in the outfield every year and has worked really hard at it,” Kirkpatrick said. “To win big games you have to have big defensive plays, and we did.”
For the championship game, Kirkpatrick gave the mound to KL Farr, who struck out two and walked three in five innings. Sam Chapman relieved Farr in the sixth, allowing just one hit.
Vierkant was tagged with the loss for the Cougars, as he allowed six runs, five earned, struck out three and walked one.
“It’s a lot different feeling from last year,” senior first baseman Hudson Brown said about winning the state championship. “It’s unbelievable, I can’t even put into words. It’s amazing.”
Thursday’s victory was the second state baseball championship for the school located on Getwell Road in Southaven. The Trojans, as Southern Baptist Education Center, won the championship in 2009, 17-5 over Tipton-Rosemark.
The Trojans were in their sixth tournament appearance (2023, 2022, 2021, 2009, 2008, 2004) and fourth championship round appearance.
Northpoint is 3-1 all-time in the tournament against Goodpasture, with last year’s final round 12-1 loss the only blemish against the Cougars.