Flashes lose game, win division championship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Clay Simmons of St. Aloysius is safe with his second stolen base as Lake second baseman Jason Massey covers the bag. (The Vicksburg Post/MARK THORNTON)

[04/17/01] LAKE In a battle of undefeated pitchers, St. Aloysius’ Ryan Hearn and Lake’s Craig Martin both threw gems.

All Martin got for his two-hitter was a win.

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But Hearn’s four-hitter was good for a division championship and a little more fuel in an already heated rivalry.

The Flashes (18-2, 13-1 Division 7-1A) took their first division loss, 3-1, and had their winning streak snapped at 12 in Monday afternoon’s makeup game. But they won the title, and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, because the loss was by fewer than three runs.

St. Al beat the defending state champion Hornets 6-3 earlier this year.

Charlie Amborn had both of the Flashes’ hits, including an RBI single in the first inning, in a game that was rained out Saturday. The Hornets (20-6, 13-1) tied it in the second and broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with a pair of runs on one hit, a walk and an error.

“We can use this as a positive note going into the playoffs,” St. Al coach Joe Graves said. “This may make everyone focus more in practice. It shows us that we can’t relax.”

Graves will have to pay up on a bet with his players by getting his head shaved in front of the school today.

He doesn’t mind, though. Especially after barely missing the playoffs the last two years, which followed a run of four straight division titles.

“It hurts when you don’t make the playoffs,” said Graves, whose team will host West Lincoln Thursday in the first game of the best-of-3 series. “This year, we worked our tails off in the offseason. I knew that we could be good.”

The Flashes will be without starting first baseman Lee Wiles in the opener. He will be forced to sit out after getting ejected in the sixth inning. The umpire said that he threw the ball at a Lake player after a big inning-ending double play. Chris Bass made a running catch in left field, then threw it in to double up Martin at first and get out of the inning with the Lake lead still at just two runs.

“All he did was toss the ball back to the mound,” Graves said. “There was nothing malicious about it. He’s never done anything malicious in his life.

“That was bad judgment on the part of the umpire.”

Lake had a player ejected against St. Al last year, which “started something between us,” Hearn said.

The teams could meet again in the South State finals if they win their first two series.

“We wanted to win so could carry some momentum into the playoffs,” said first-year Lake coach Brian Goodman, who was an assistant on Newton County’s state championship softball team last year. “We want to see St. Al again in South State … that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Martin (7-0) got out of an early jam, allowing only one run after the first four Flashes reached base. Hearn’s flyout to center was a little too shallow to score a run. Then Martin, who was picked to play on the Class 1A/2A/3A All-Star team, got a force out at the plate and a strikeout to end the inning with the bases loaded. He struck out three, walked five and hit one.

The Flashes stranded eight, five at second or third.

“We just didn’t come to hit … we scored six runs on them last time,” Hearn said, adding that the players may have been a little too relaxed knowing they could lose and still win the division.

“He wasn’t throwing anything we haven’t seen,” he said of Martin, who is getting attention from Mississippi College. Teammates Jake Nester (shortstop) and Jason Massey (second base) have signed with East Central Community College. Nester, also an all-star pick, helped the Hornets turn two double plays.

Lake got three of its four hits in the second inning but managed only one run before Hearn got two of his three strikeouts to end the inning. He walked two and two double plays behind him.

In the fifth, Jason McGee drove in the go-ahead run on one of St. Al’s errors of the day. Massey followed with a sacrifice fly to left made it 3-1.

The Flashes, who had baserunners in all but one inning, never were able to come up with the big hit.

“Maybe the layoff affected us a little bit,” Graves said of the woes at the plate.

Graves said he expects to see the Hornets again.

“We’ve beat them before and we’ll have to beat them again,” he said.

Hearn said the team is up to it.

“We’ll see them again,” he said, adding, “and next time, it won’t be so close.”