St. Al’s season ends at Myrtle
Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 16, 2002
[05/12/02]MYRTLE The St. Aloysius Flashes had Game 2 of their Class 1A state championship series against Myrtle in the bag Saturday night. All they needed were four outs to send it to a Game 3 Monday night at Bazinsky Field.
Instead, they threw their title hopes away literally.
St. Al (23-6) committed two errors on one play in the bottom of the sixth inning, allowing Myrtle (26-8) to score the tying and winning runs for a 3-2 win and the Hawks’ first state title. St. Al was making its first appearance in the state finals since 1976.
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“I personally am always going to feel the pain of letting it slip through. I know we made it this far and we’re a good ballteam, but it’s always going to be there,” said St. Al catcher Charlie Amborn, who made one of the errors on the decisive play.
St. Al took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when Chad Cox drew a bases-loaded walk. The Flashes weren’t able to put another run on the board, however, and it came back to haunt them in the sixth.
Myrtle first baseman David Hill hit a one-out double off the wall in left-center. Hill was nearly thrown out at second because he thought the ball was a home run and slowed while rounding first.
“You can’t even see out there in the shadows. I had to kick it in,” said Hill, who was 2-for-3 with the double, and also scored two runs.
Center fielder Wesley Beasley followed with a slow grounder that just got by St. Al pitcher Aaron George and then went through the legs of shortstop Chad Cox, moving Hill to third and putting the winning run on base. The Flashes then caught a break when Myrtle pitcher Gary Hood hit a grounder to first.
Jason Brown fielded the ball and threw home, catching Hill in a rundown. As Hill neared third Amborn threw to third baseman Alex Frisbee, but the throw got by him and went into left field. Hill scored the tying run, and Beasley rounded third as St. Al left fielder Walker Hengst scooped up the ball and fired it home.
Hengst’s throw hit the dirt in front of home plate and skipped over George’s shoulder, allowing Beasley to score to give Myrtle a 3-2 lead.
“I screwed up,” Amborn said. “I tried to throw it to Alex, and I guess I threw it to the left of him. I just made a bad throw.”
After hitting a batter, George got out of the jam with a fielder’s choice and a strikeout, and St. Al rallied in the top of the seventh.
Cox reached on an error to start the inning, but was thrown out trying to steal second. After a strikeout, Frisbee was hit by a pitch and Amborn singled to put the tying run in scoring position. Hood buckled down, however, getting Brown to chase a 3-2 fastball to end the game.
“This is an incredible accomplishment. We talked about this early in the year, but we never anticipated it would actually happen,” said Myrtle coach Robert Gordon, whose team made the playoffs for the first time in 1999.
As Myrtle’s players rushed out of the dugout, St. Al’s were quiet. Several Flashes had tears in their eyes while others simply dropped their heads. St. Al coach Joe Graves said the memory of the loss could linger for a while, but he hoped the Flashes would learn from it.
“It’s according to how you take it. If you dwell on it and let it cause problems, then it can be a hard pill to swallow,” Graves said. “We’ve got 10, 12 seniors coming back, and we should be contending for this again next year.”
To be contenders, the Flashes will have to hit better than they did against Myrtle. St. Al was shackled for the second straight game, managing just five hits against Hood, who struck out 13. In the two games, St. Al struck out a whopping 26 times and managed only eight hits.
“Probably the biggest thing that contributed to our loss was not putting the ball in play offensively,” Graves said. “We did not hit the baseball. As hard as we practiced to hit hit, in this series, we just did not hit the baseball well enough to win a state championship.”
The Flashes did hit early in Game 2, however. Back-to-back singles by Cox and Dan Muirhead tied the game 1-1 in the third inning, but Hood struck out the next three batters to end the threat. Blake Warnock and Walker Hengst sandwiched singles around a walk to George to start the fourth, but again Hood struck out three to escape the jam with only a single run allowed.
The lack of offensive punch spoiled a great outing by George, who surrendered just three hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out two as Myrtle hit just four balls out of the infield.
“I guess we just let it slip through our fingers,” Amborn said. “We had runners in scoring position and we just didn’t come through when we needed to.”