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Hoben, Eagles bombard WCCA, 12-0

[4/28/04]WOODVILLE When you fire BBs and unfurl ungodly hooks that break from 11 to 5 o’clock like Porters Chapel ace Ryan Hoben, talk is cheap.

However, a day after stopping just short of guaranteeing a win during the Eagles’ playoff series with Wilkinson County Christian, Hoben with the attentive ears of head coach Randy Wright nearby was guarded Tuesday.

Not that he needed to be.

Hoben mowed down 11 Rams with strikeouts and surrendered four hits in a 12-0 five-inning shellacking, as the defending state champion Eagles (24-1) took a 1-0 lead in the best of three Mississippi Private School Association Class A playoff series.

The two teams resume play Thursday in Vicksburg.

“We’ve been to the playoffs every year that I’ve been out here,” said Hoben, who helped his own cause at the plate with a pair of hits and RBIs. “Hopefully we can keep this up and go back to state.”

A pitcher’s duel between Hoben and WCCA starter Brad Pritchard during the first three innings turned sour in the top of the fourth when PCA exploded for 10 runs thanks to four Ram errors, which ignited the bats.

With the first two Eagle batters reaching base due to WCCA miscues, Hoben sent a hot shot that Ram shortstop Taylor Fontentot could not handle, scoring Humphrey Barlow to extend the Eagle lead to 3-0.

Three batters later, Chip Lofton poked an 0-1 curve into center to score two more for a 6-0 advantage.

“That’s a quality team, and you can’t give anything to them or else they’ll take advantage of it like they did tonight,” WCCA head coach Ray Olive said. “That’s been the story for us this year. The big innings have hurt us. If we can shut those down, we can play with these guys.”

But the Rams were unable to do it Tuesday, as Gerald Mims followed Lofton’s two-bagger with a run-scoring double to the right-center gap and Michael Busby scored Mims with an RBI single for an 8-0 cushion.

The Eagles sent 14 batters to the plate in the decisive inning.

“They gave us some opportunities with their mistakes,” said Wright, in his ninth year at PCA. “We started slowly, but finished strong. Anytime you can win a second round playoff game in five innings, you’ve done a good job.”

The long inning didn’t negate what Hoben did on the mound; in fact, he appeared stronger when he came out for the start of the Rams’ half of the fourth.

After walking the leadoff man in two of the first three innings, Hoben struck out the side around a two-out single from Fontenot the only WCCA hitter not to be a Hoben victim.

Hoben, whose heater has been clocked anywhere from 85 to 88 mph, took care of eight of the last 11 batters by himself.

“He got stronger as the game went on,” said Wright, who has four starters back from last year’s state championship team. “You could tell by the fourth and fifth inning he caught a groove. He didn’t have his best stuff. He pitched well enough for us to win.”

Despite the drubbing, Olive saw his team hang in early against a club whose only loss came against Class AAA power Hillcrest Christian.

“I thought we hit the ball well,” he said. “We had our chances at the beginning of the game. That’s a good team and they stopped us.”