All-purpose players to pace St. Al

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2002

[02/10/02]Except for losing their top hitter and ace pitcher from a year ago, the St. Aloysius Flashes appear to be in good shape this season.

The Flashes, who went 21-5 and advanced to the South State championship series in 2001, have six starters back, a few lively young arms in the rotation and loads of versatility and depth that should position them for another playoff run.

“We lost some key players, but we’ve got some young people ready to step up. We should be about as good as last year,” St. Al utility player Charlie Amborn said.

Amborn is the poster child for St. Al this season. The junior, who hit .409 and drove in 37 runs last season, will catch, play third base and outfield, and also pitch. He’s one of four Flashes who will see regular playing time at more than one position.

“We’ve got some kids that can play multiple positions and do it well because they did this summer. The summer helped us a lot on that,” St. Al coach Joe Graves said. “The summer opened our eyes as to who can do what.”

Aaron George, another multi-purpose player, will anchor the Flashes’ pitching staff and lineup. George, who will catch when he isn’t on the mound, hit .465 last season with a team-high eight home runs and 38 RBIs. His average was second on the team to shortstop Clay Simmons, who now plays for Hinds Community College.

George was St. Al’s No. 2 pitcher last season behind ace Ryan Hearn, but still posted an 8-2 record with a 4.43 ERA, 62 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 68 innings.

“He’s going to be the man to go to …,” Graves said.

The rest of St. Al’s staff is inexperienced, but Graves said they are showing progress. Lefthanded junior Jason Brown has taken lessons from former Warren Central star Shea Douglas to improve his pickoff throw and senior Dan Muirhead has “a natural slider” that should be effective in relief appearances.

“I don’t know how he does it, but his rotation on the ball is a natural slider. He throws it and the ball has good movement,” Graves said of Muirhead. “I’ve got seven pitchers that can do a little bit. That gives us some options and gives some people opportunities to throw less innings and keep their arms fresh. That’s going to help us tremendously.”

Toss in Amborn, who threw a five-inning no-hitter in one of his only two pitching appearances last season, and Zane Key, a wiry junior with a good fastball, and the Flashes make up in raw talent what they lack in experience.

“I think our biggest strength is having a pretty good pitching staff with depth, and depth at the catching position. In high school, that makes a big difference,” Graves said.

The Flashes have depth, but little experience, at most of the infield positions. Alex Frisbee will start at third base, Muirhead and Chad Cox will platoon at shortstop, senior Victor Segers will play second and Brown and John Parks will play first base.

Frisbee, Segers and Brown are the only ones in the group who saw significant playing time last season, but the trio batted a combined .245.

The Flashes have a couple of big bats in the outfield, most notably center fielder Blake Warnock (.451, 8 triples, 50 runs, 36 RBIs), but the uncertainty of some other bats has Graves thinking small this season.

“We better hit the ball well, as much as we’ve put into it. Last year, we averaged about 10 hits a game and almost 11 runs a game. We’re going to try our best to manufacture runs. Bunting, stealing and putting pressure on their defense, and play good defense ourselves,” Graves said. “If we can score four or five runs, we’ve got a chance to win the ballgame. If we do like we did last year and average about 11 runs a game, we’ll put some wins in the win column.”