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The Bob Jones baseball team won the Class 7A State Championship for the first time in school history utilizing a Wolfpack mindset of playing together as a team. Photo Contributed

Bob Jones Baseball State Champions- The Story Behind The Championship

MADISON- With every good athletic team comes the fact the efforts of all among the group of athletes must be cohesive working towards the same goal. The Bob Jones baseball team exhibited the necessary “Wolfpack” philosophy from the first day of practice back in January to closing out the 2024 season by winning the Class 7A AHSAA State Championship, thus being the first to do so in school history.

“These players embodied what a team is and from the worst to the best player on the team was no different in the wanting to win as all were on board for the chase to the state title,” said Jared Smith after his ninth season as head coach of the Bob Jones baseball team. “We all receive the same championship ring as this team had no selfishness, envy or jealously. We had zero parents problems as they, too, were all on board.”

The Patriots finished the 2024 campaign 44-9 and defeated Central-Phenix City in the state finals two games to one. The efforts were led by senior Braden Booth who was named the Championship Series Most Valuable Player by batting .700 with three homeruns and four RBIs, plus he tossed a two-hitter on the mound in game one of the best-of-three series. The Mississippi State signee is easily in the running for Mr. Baseball of Alabama.

“We were a team and more than just Braden as we all meshed together, never gave up, as a few times during the season we were down, but would fight back as we kept coming in throwing punches,” said junior pitcher Jack Shaw, an unsung hero on the season for the Patriots. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound right handed pitcher had a marvelous campaign with a 9-0 record with two saves on the season. But it was his clutch pitching in the post-season that set him apart from others across the state.

In each of the best-of-three series in post-season, including against Thompson in round one, James Clemens in round two and the title series against the Red Devils, Shaw was called upon to pitch in the deciding game-three of the series. He won all three with outstanding efforts.

“I felt a lot of weight from the challenges in those games but I knew I had to perform well and do it for the seniors on our team as it was their last chance to win it all,” said Shaw in his second season on the varsity squad. “My mindset changed from the regular season as it was winning and nothing else.”

For Booth, a varsity player since he was a freshman and highly touted player across the country, his numbers on the season were enormous going 13-1 on the mound with a 1.51 ERA while batting .429 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs. Known as being extremely humble of his talents, Booth said his success and the team’s success came from a team effort. “It was the other players in the dugout who carried us through our championship season as their continued energy gave those on the field a boost at every pitch,” said Booth. “We all understood we would never again be on the field at the same time and wanted to finish by capturing a championship ring, something Bob Jones had never accomplished before. I struggled through a lower back injury about a quarter of the season and I pushed through that for our 15 seniors, especially those who will not play in college as this was their last season. I wanted to bring back a ring for them.”

“I never had a vision this team would break the team record of wins and we did that with only nine losses,” added Smith. “I didn’t know we had the depth in pitching. Our efforts were a great testament to our players and coaches and I feel blessed to be where we finished. Once we beat some nationally ranked teams in the Perfect Game Showcase in Hoover back in February we all knew we could win it all.”

The Patriots had what was called the Wolfpack mentality, a moniker from assistant coach Brian Roberts who also would get the team together and tell them stories prior to each game. He started those meetings in Area play and continued through the championship series. The Wolfpack is one where everyone matters. In fact, the entire team voted to have Wolfpack inscribed on their championship rings they will receive for winning the Class 7A title.

“We all grew up together playing baseball in Madison as we saw those big-time players and teams at Bob Jones in the past lose and that made us strive to win,” added Shaw. “We were close-knit in everything we did. Matter of fact, Zack’s (Johnson, starting catcher and signee with Alabama) mother would give Zack and me a message before each game. Those messages motivated us. After that, I would say a prayer. We never gave up.”

“This team I would describe was gritty, resilient and unselfish,” said Smith. “Of course I will always remember Braden as the best player that’s ever played here and his impact on the rest of the team made a difference throughout the season.”

Upon winning the state title, being presented the State Championship Trophy by the AHSAA and celebrating with family and friends, the Patriots made their bus ride home and arrived at the school at 1:30 a.m. where awaiting them was a throng of family and fans at the baseball field where the stadium lights were on and the final score of the championship game flashed on the field’s scoreboard.

“That’s when it finally hit me that we won the state championship,” said Shaw.

“I predicted before the season we might go 20-20, but everyone on this team proved me wrong as we all meshed together, played hard and did what we needed to do,” said Booth.

What a season to remember, where great players with great teammates came together as one, as a Wolfpack.

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