Augusta Christian's threepeat is complete.
The Lions baseball team knocked off Ben Lippen in a two-game sweep in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association Class AAA state championship series last week.
Augusta Christian won Game 1 at home in a mercy-rule shortened 11-0 victory Monday, then finished the job at Ben Lippen on Tuesday night with a 12-5 win.
Though a new baseball state banner will fly in the Augusta Christian gym for the third straight year, many of the Lions who contributed to the milestone did so for the first time.
"For nine of our guys it was their first baseball state championship," Augusta Christian baseball coach Craig Johnson said. "To me, this is a special one because a lot of people gave up hope on a lot of these young guys and didn't give them a chance. It's good to know that they proved them wrong."
The Lions lost 12 seniors from last season's state title team and entered 2007 with only three returning starters. Those starters, Josh Whitaker, Taylor Hensley and Tyler Bourdo, walked away with their third baseball state championship after leading the Lions to a 22-8 record this year.
The last four wins came in series sweeps in the SCISA Class AAA state semifinals and finals over Laurence Manning and Ben Lippen.
"It looked like we saved our best baseball for the semifinals and finals," Johnson said. "I don't know if it's really a surprise, but I don't think I've ever been as proud of a group of boys as I am right now."
Once the Lions, a No. 1 seed entering the SCISA state playoffs, reached the state championship series, their victory was never in doubt.
Senior pitcher Travis Cerasuolo turned in a nine-strikeout, five hitter in the first game of the series to shutout visiting Ben Lippen.
Senior Taylor Hensley also went the distance in the clincher with a one-walk, 11 strikeout performance. His final strike, a swinging miss by Ben Lippen designated hitter Justin Norris, sealed the title.
"It feels great - about the same as the others, but it's nice beating someone in our region," Whitaker said. "It's a nice surprise that these young guys stepped up and helped a lot."
The biggest contributions from the younger Lions came from sophomores William Banks and Austin Crabill.
In Game 1, Crabill broke the game wide open with a third-inning grand slam to give the Lions a 7-0 lead. Banks went three-for-five with four runs scored in the two-game series. In his eight plate appearances, he failed to reach base only twice.
Lions third baseman Johnny Whitaker also had a hot bat in the final game with a three-for-three, 3 RBIs night at the plate.
The championship is the fifth baseball state title in Augusta Christian history.
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