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Next stop for St. Al: South State

[05/01/01] UNION The bottom of the order came through when it mattered most for St. Aloysius.

No. 8 hitter Walker Hengst singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning at Union, and No. 7 hitter Alex Frisbee delivered a two-run single as part of a seventh-inning rally that sealed an 11-4 series-clinching win for St. Al (22-3). The victory sends the Flashes to the South State championship series against division rival and defending state champion Lake.

Hengst and Frisbee combined for five RBIs in the last two innings as St. Al twice rallied from two-run deficits before exploding for six runs in the top of the seventh.

“The bottom of our order, all season we’ve been weak and we came through and stepped up this game. We did it like we should’ve been doing all season,” said Hengst, who drove in another run with a seventh-inning groundout.

The middle of St. Al’s order did its part, too. Cleanup hitter Aaron George went 3-for-3 with three singles and an RBI and pitcher Ryan Hearn, batting fifth, went 3-for-4 with three singles and four RBIs. The Nos. 1-5 batters in St. Al’s order collected nine hits, scored nine runs and set the stage for the lower tier’s late heroics.

St. Al will now host Lake in the first game of the best-of-three South State series Thursday at Bazinsky Field. Game 2 will be Saturday at Lake. Times have not been set yet.

Lake (25-7), which split a pair of games this season with St. Al, shocked Mercy Cross (21-7) in Game 3 of their second-round series Monday night on a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to take a 6-5 win.

St. Al assistant coach Jamie Trichell, filling in for Joe Graves while he’s tending to his ill mother, said the familiarity and the rivalry between St. Al and Lake will help the Flashes.

“It’s going to help us out because we know we beat them the first time and played them a good, hard game the second time,” Trichell said. “I think the guys will be more up to play them because they’re in our district and we have the rivalry and all of that good old stuff.”

Trailing 4-2, Charlie Amborn, George and Hearn started the top of the sixth with three straight hits, including an RBI single by Hearn that cut it to 4-3. After a strikeout, Frisbee hit a grounder to short that Union’s Jody Blount fielded and came home with to try and get St. Al courtesy runner Josh Martin.

Martin avoided the tag, but missed the plate. Fortunately for St. Al, however, Union (22-13) catcher B.J. Norton didn’t realize it. As Norton threw to second in an attempt to throw out an advancing Frisbee, the players in the St. Al dugout alertly told Martin to go back and touch home for the tying run.

Hengst followed with his single to center to score courtesy runner Miles Ashley and give St. Al the lead.

“I thought I touched the corner of the plate, but I guess I didn’t,” Martin said.

Hearn retired the Yellowjackets in order in the bottom of the sixth, and the Flashes rallied for six insurance runs in the seventh. Six straight St. Al batters reached base, and Hearn and Frisbee keyed the inning with a pair of two-run singles.

“That took a lot more pressure off me,” said Hearn (10-1), who allowed six hits, no walks and struck out five in seven innings.

Union mounted a small rally in the seventh, getting two runners on with an error and a single, but it was quickly dashed. Hearn struck out designated hitter Wes Henry for the first out, and George made a snap throw to first to pickoff one runner. Norton then grounded to third to end the game.

“It hurts. You look at that scoreboard in the sixth inning and you’re up 4-2 and you start thinking you need six outs,” Union coach Sid Wheatley said. “Then they get a little hit here, and it falls, and then there’s a little added pressure … You’ve got to give St. Al credit because they got the hits when they needed it.”

Union took an early 2-0 lead on solo homers by pitcher Justin Darby and Norton, but the Flashes came back with two in the fourth inning on RBI singles by George and Hearn to tie it.

Union answered in the bottom of the inning, however, with an RBI double by Blount, who later scored on Danny Caine’s sacrifice fly to left to make it 4-2.

Darby, an East Central Community College signee, kept the Flashes in check until the sixth when he tired. After Hengst’s single, he threw two straight balls to Victor Segers and was pulled for Blount, who shut down the Flashes in game two.

“My arm got a little bit tired. Not much, but the breaking ball started hanging a little bit,” said Darby (8-3), who suffered two of his losses at the hands of St. Al.

Blount got the final two outs in the sixth, but was roughed up in the seventh. He allowed two hits, walked one and hit another batter, and was charged with four runs before giving way to Norton.