Flashes zoom past Ethel, 12-0

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2003

Ethel shortstop Will Ferguson dives back into the bag as St. Aloysius first baseman Kyle Richards gets the pickoff throw from pitcher Jason Brown. Ferguson was out on the play, but was allowed to advance to second when Brown was called for a balk. (C. Todd ShermanThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/18/03] St. Aloysius got everything it wanted Thursday night: A relentless hitting barrage, a dominant performance from starting pitcher Jason Brown, and a lopsided win in its playoff opener.

Brown hit a solo home run and held Ethel to one hit in five innings, Drew Mazzanti hit a two-run homer, and every St. Al starter had at least one hit as the Flashes (13-5) cruised to a 12-0 win in game one of the first-round MHSAA Class 1A playoff series at Bazinsky Field.

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The Flashes can wrap up the best-of-three series with a win tonight at Ethel (13-12). Game two is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

“It’s a real big boost,” to win game one, Brown said. “Now all we need to do is go down there, beat them again, and have three days’ vacation.”

The game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the second, and Ethel left-hander Shane Hunt seemed to be keeping the Flashes at bay. He retired five of the first six batters he faced, allowing only an infield single to St. Al leadoff man Chad Cox, and had two strikeouts.

With two outs in the bottom of the second, though, Walker Hengst drove a single to left field and the Flashes started rolling.

Mazzanti followed with a homer to left to put the Flashes ahead 2-0, and they added two more runs when Brown’s hard grounder with the bases loaded skipped past Ethel first baseman Joshua Black. The error allowed Kyle Richards and Cox to score.

The home run was Mazzanti’s team-leading third of the season and seemed to wake the Flashes up, he said.

“It looked like it sparked the team. It picked them up right then. Even though it was a two-run homer, it made everybody wake up. We came out a little flat, and after that it brought us all up,” Mazzanti said.

St. Al rallied with two outs in the third for an unearned run that made it 5-0, and Ethel coach Chris Schuster threw in the towel.

Feeling his team was already too far behind to make a comeback, he pulled Hunt out of the game after the third inning to save him for the rest of the series.

“I was trying to save him for the series. I’m not going to waste him. If we’re getting beat 5-0 and we can’t score anyway, why waste your No. 1?” Schuster said. “Maybe I’m going to start Matt (McAdams) tomorrow, and if we come down and need three outs or six outs to win the game, I’m saving Shane for those six outs for tomorrow. That’s the only reason.”

The Flashes didn’t give Will Ferguson, Hunt’s replacement, a very warm welcome.

Leading off the fourth inning, Brown hit the second pitch he saw over the right field fence for a home run. Two pitches later, Rob Jones drilled a double to center, and Alex Frisbee and Jordan Muirhead followed with RBI singles to make it 8-0 before Ferguson was pulled after only four batters and fewer than a dozen pitches.

Frankie Aughtman moved in from center field to replace Ferguson, but didn’t fare much better.

He allowed a single and two walks, and uncorked two wild pitches that helped St. Al score two more runs. Charlie Amborn touched him for an RBI single, and Brown capped the inning with an RBI groundout to make it 12-0 before Aughtman got Jones to pop up to end the inning.

In all, the Flashes sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on six hits in the fourth. Of the nine St. Al players in the lineup, only one failed to reach base in the inning.

“The first guy they threw was a little slower, I felt, but the first guy wasn’t straight. The second guy was straight down the middle. And we usually hit straight fastball guys,” Mazzanti said. “Anytime you have a fastball here, we’ll rip it.”

The offensive support was more than enough for Brown to work with. He allowed a bloop single to leadoff man Ferguson in the top of the first and walked Hunt two batters later, but got out of the inning with a double play and cruised the rest of the way.

Brown didn’t give up a hit or a walk after the first inning, retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced, and finished with seven strikeouts while throwing only 67 pitches.

He set the last seven Ethel hitters down in order, striking out five of them. Brown also picked off one of the Tigers’ five baserunners in the game and had two others dead to rights, but was called for a pair of balks. No Ethel runners advanced past second base.

“I was feeling real good, and then I kind of got upset when they got on our fans so I figured I’d give them something to cry about. I started throwing as hard as I could, really,” Brown said with a laugh, referring to a group of fans seated behind the center field fence who were asked to leave after heckling Ethel’s outfielders.

The Flashes now head to Ethel with a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season. St. Al’s Alex Frisbee (6-1) and Ethel’s Matt McAdams (2-1) are the scheduled starters.

McAdams mixes in more breaking balls than Hunt, which could throw the Flashes off a bit, but they were confident after their dominating performance in game one.

“I feel pretty confident. Their field is a cracker box. It’s about 290 (feet) down the lines, and 315 or 320 to center … It’s a different world,” St. Al coach Joe Graves said. “We’ll move up in the box (against McAdams), and all you’ve got to do on a small field like that is hit the ball in the air and it’s out of there. It’s almost like playing softball.”