St. Aloysius wins division; Vicksburg falters

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 11, 2003

Flashes hold on for victory over rival Cathedral

{04/11/03}One big inning by St. Aloysius was enough to hold off a big comeback by Natchez Cathedral and net the Flashes their second straight division championship Thursday afternoon at Bazinsky Field.

St. Al exploded for 10 runs in the third inning to take a 13-3 lead, then hung on for dear life as Cathedral chipped away at the deficit, before finally putting the Green Wave away and winning 14-9.

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Walker Hengst went 2-for-2 with three RBIs, and Charlie Amborn and Jordan Muirhead each had two hits and two RBIs as the Flashes beat their archrival for the fifth time in seven meetings dating back to last season.

St. Al’s streak against Cathedral includes two wins during the 2002 regular season one of them a 7-6, 10-inning thriller and two more victories in the 2002 South State championship series.

St. Al will host Ethel in a first-round Class 1A playoff series next week. The day and time have not been determined yet.

Cathedral will face Greenville-St. Joe in the first round. St. Al and Cathedral could meet again in the South State finals.

“It’s great, especially when this was supposed to have been a rebuilding year,” St. Al coach Joe Graves said of winning the division. “To be honest, I think this was above our expectations. Now, we knew we had the talent, but when you have a new group there’s always a lot of second-guessing. But this gives us the psychological edge against Cathedral because they don’t know how to shake the jinx.”

Michael Blain went 4-for-5, Chris Norris was 2-for-3 with a home run, double, and four RBIs, and Jeremy Davis homered for Cathedral, which outhit St. Al 16-9.

The solid offensive attack wasn’t enough for Cathedral to overcome the nightmare that unfolded in the third inning, though.

St. Al sent 13 batters to the plate in the third, with the first 10 reaching base. Three Cathedral pitchers combined for four walks three of them with the bases loaded and Green Wave fielders committed five errors in the inning. Only the first of the 10 runs St. Al scored was earned.

Amborn led off with a walk, then Muirhead and Hengst followed with singles to bring in a run and put St. Al ahead 4-3.

The next five batters all reached on either errors or bases-loaded walks to increase the lead to 8-3, and Rob Jones drove in another run on a botched fielder’s choice. Amborn, batting for the second time in the inning, then delivered a two-run single to make it 11-3 before Muirhead and Hengst capped the rally with back-to-back sacrifice flies.

“It was one of those things where one big inning kills you. We should have got the outs, and we didn’t,” Norris said. “It was kind of a downer, but we’ve been there before. We knew what we had to do, we knew we had to come back and score runs and play defense.”

Leading 13-3 after only three innings, it seemed as if the Flashes would cruise to an easy win.

Cathedral had other plans.

Norris doubled and scored on a foul pop-up to first by Brent Tosspon to make it 13-4, and the Flashes had their own defensive meltdown in the fifth.

Garrett Jones led off with a double and rounded the bases with the help of two throwing errors, then Davis homered to center to cut it to 13-6.

“I think it was a real big time right there. It gave everybody a chance to get up there and do what they needed to do, and hit like we’ve been hitting all year,” Norris said.

Te Riley followed the homer with a triple to deep center, and scored on Norris’ sacrifice fly. Cathedral then loaded the bases with two outs to chase St. Al starter Alex Frisbee, but Brown came on in relief and struck out Rodney Daggett to end the inning.

Hengst’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth put St. Al ahead 14-7, but Cathedral answered with two more runs in the top of the sixth.

The Green Wave had a chance for more, but ran themselves out of the inning when Riley was tagged out at home while trying to score on a dropped third strike with two outs. Had Riley stayed at third, Tosspon, who had struck out, would have reached first on the play and loaded the bases for the red-hot Blain.

The Wave also had a runner thrown out at home in the second inning, leaving them to wonder what might have been had they been able to capitalize on all of their chances.

“The fifth and sixth inning was what hurt us. In the fifth inning, when we struck out with the bases loaded, I would have liked to have put a little pressure on them, and make them play on defense, but that’s going to happen. The sixth inning, we gave them the third out at the plate,” Cathedral coach Craig Beesley said.

After St. Al went quietly in the sixth, Brown got the first two Cathedral batters out in the seventh. Blain singled with two outs to give the Flashes a brief scare, but Brown caught Garrett Jones looking at a curveball for a called strike three to end the game.

“They had a great ballclub. They can rip a baseball. We just did what we had to do to win a ballgame, and hang on,” Graves said. “We struggled a little bit at times, but we made the plays on defense and then our pitchers came through and got the job done.”

Arrows batter VHS pitchers for 13 runs, 13 hits in title victory

CLINTON With a home playoff series and Division 4-5A championship on the line, the Vicksburg Gators watched it slip through their fingers.

The Gators (14-7, 6-2) blew a three-run lead and watched Clinton score nine unanswered runs over the final three innings to beat Vicksburg, 13-7, and claim the division championship.

The Arrows (16-9, 7-1) will host Tupelo in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Thursday, while the Gators will travel to Starkville, also on Thursday.

Vicksburg fell behind twice early, but took the lead for the first time in the fourth inning.

Trailing 4-2, the Gators scored five runs on three hits and a pair of Clinton errors for a 7-4 lead. The barrage also chased Clinton’s ace pitcher Mike Cashion from the game.

Steven Price led off the inning by reaching on an error and Sean McGowan was hit by a pitch and Matt Middleton walked to load the bases for Josh McBride.

The hard-hitting second baseman belted a three-RBI double and Justin Henry followed with an RBI double as Vicksburg took a 6-4 lead. Henry stole third and scored when the catcher’s throw sailed into left field. Paul Gorney followed with a double to chase Cashion with the Gators holding a 7-4 lead.

Korey Cunninghame relieved Cunningham and retired the next two batters.

“He’s been throwing well for us all season,” Clinton coach Kelly Greer said. “He did a good job for us. He’s a breaking ball pitcher and can be sneaky.”

The Gators never solved Cunningham, however, and only had two singles over the final three innings against the righty.

The Arrows did not have the same problems solving Vicksburg’s James Jackson.

Clinton answered Vicksburg’s big fourth inning with a five-run inning for itself.

Joel Hurt, Cashion and Clay Keith had back-to-back-to-back RBIs and the Gators committed two errors as Clinton took a 9-7 lead.

Jackson, whose house was flooded on Sunday when more than 8 inches of rain pelted the Vicksburg area, allowed nine runs in three innings of work to take the loss.

Henry relieved Jackson, but the Arrows got to him as well. Reed Prewitt hit an RBI double in the fifth for a 10-7 lead, and the Arrows put the game away in the sixth with a three-run inning. Five hits in the inning led to three runs, and a 13-7 lead.

Cunningham, meanwhile, retired the last seven batters he faced to earn the win.