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Eagles’ walking-wounded searching for sweep

[5/09/03]Porters Chapel Academy paid the price for beating Franklin in Game 1 of the South State championship series on Wednesday.

Three PCA starters suffered bizarre injuries in the 10-1 win, which put the Eagles within one victory of advancing to the Academy-A finals for the second time in three seasons.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is today at 4:30 at PCA. Game 3, if necessary, will follow.

If today’s games go anything like Wednesday, the Eagles may be ducking for cover by the time the sun goes down.

Right fielder Gerald Mims, catcher and third baseman Josh Rush, and pitcher Andrew Embry who is scheduled to start Game 2 all were bandaged or limping slightly with minor injuries at Thursday’s practice.

All were expecting to play today, although Mims is questionable with a bruised elbow. He was wearing a protective sleeve on his right arm Thursday.

“If Gerald can show me he can throw a ball and swing a bat, then he’ll play. If he can’t then we’ll put Josh Gain in there,” PCA coach Randy Wright said.

The trouble started early in Game 1, when the strings on Rush’s catcher’s mitt broke. That forced him to catch pitcher Ryan Hoben’s 85 mph fastball with the palm of his glove, which has little padding left after a long season.

“In the second inning he threw one, and it caught it and jerked it back,” Rush said as he showed off a plastic brace on his left thumb.

A trainer was able to tape Rush’s thumb and wrist, and he didn’t leave the game. On Thursday, Rush said he thought the thumb was broken, but he hadn’t had it examined by a doctor and wasn’t expecting to miss any games. During football season, Rush played several games with broken fingers.

More problems followed for PCA late in the game Wednesday. With the score 10-0 and the Eagles batting in the top of the seventh, Mims turned his back toward the mound to avoid an inside fastball from Franklin’s Darren Graham.

He was hit on the elbow, took a few steps up the first base line, then fell to the ground in pain. He stayed in the game briefly, but left after advancing to second base on a wild pitch.

Gain replaced him in the field in the bottom of the seventh, and made a nice throw from right field to save a run on a base hit by Blaise Sims.

“I think it’s going to be all right. I think it just hit me in the funnybone and swelled up. It’ll be all right,” Mims said after Wednesday’s game.

The most bizarre of the injuries, though, happened after game. Embry was running windsprints in the outfield and tweaked a muscle in his left hip. He said there was some pain when he ran, but was adamant that he would pitch today.

“I’m pitching,” Embry said. “I’m ready to take it and get on the hill. This is the South State finals right here, so we’d better go on and get it over with.”

The Eagles pounded Franklin starter Matt Doyle (9-2) for six runs, then cruised to their fifth straight win over Franklin. All but one PCA starter reached base at least once.

The winning streak have the Eagles guarding against overconfidence heading into Game 2.

“If we don’t come out ready to play, they can beat us any day of the week, no matter what the score tonight was,” Mims said. “… This is the first game that wasn’t. There isn’t any doubt they can beat us two times in a row if we don’t come ready to play.”

For Franklin, the key will be capitalizing on its opportunities. The Cougars left seven runners in scoring position in Game 1, and didn’t score until the game was well out of reach in the bottom of the seventh.

The Cougars still feel they can beat PCA twice and win the series, but know their chances are dwindling.

“We’re going to play the first game and win it, and then after that, we’ll see,” Franklin assistant coach Bill Marionneaux said. “If you look back, three of those games were one run, 2-1, 4-3, 4-3. If you look at batting averages, we outhit them. The timely hits and untimely errors have been the difference in a couple of the games. It’s two evenly matched teams, they just seem to make the plays when they need to make them and we don’t.”