Pierce, Stringer mow down Flashes|[03/26/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The way Andrew Pierce’s fastball and slider were moving Tuesday night, there was little St. Aloysius’ hitters could do.

Pierce overcame a slow start, allowing a run on three straight hits in the first inning, and then little else afterwards. He struck out 18 batters to pace the visiting Stringer Red Devils to a 4-1 win over St. Al at Bazinsky Field in a key Division 6-1A game.

Stringer’s win moves them within a half-game of St. Al for the division lead, but more importantly it finished off the regular season series between the two schools at a game apiece, with each winning on the other’s homefield. St. Al won the first meeting 1-0 at Stringer.

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“We split and now just have to play it out,” St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said of the divisional race. “Pierce is good and tonight he was outstanding. I just have to tip my hat to him. He throws a cut fastball and a slider. Both were very good and those are pitches you don’t see much of at this level.”

Pierce said he felt he needed to be on top of his game because of the previous meeting with St. Al back in Stringer.

“I had a lot of movement on pitches. Eighteen strikeouts is a lot, it’s more than my older cousin had. I had 15 in the first game with them but Ryno (Martin-Nez) had 14. They outhit us down there, but tonight our guys put the bat on the ball,” Pierce said.

Just a junior, Pierce has a whippet type arm in the mold of Southern Miss ace Todd McInnis.

“They say I’ve hit 90,” Pierce said with a smile. “Just a fastball and a slider.”

St. Al (12-3, 6-1) needed a similar type game from its ace in Martin-Nez, but couldn’t get it. He walked five, including the leadoff man in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings. The one in the fourth proved to be the most costly because that run scored, making it the first earned run given up by him this season.

“He just wasn’t sharp,” Wilkerson said. The loss is Martin-Nez’ first in five decisions.

Stringer’s Derek Bynum drew the key fourth inning walk and then went to second after Jeff Bounds singled to left. A passed ball moved Bynum to third. Darrius Beavers then got down a perfect sacrifice bunt toward first base to plate Bynum to tie the game at 1. Bounds made it 2-1 when St. Al made its lone error of the game when a ground ball to second caused a rushed throw that was dropped.

When Martin-Nez walked his fourth leadoff man in the fifth, Wilkerson pulled the plug and brought in Stephen Evans. Martin-Nez bailed himself out of the jam when he threw a dart home from short to catcher Sean Weaver to tag out Josh Woodruff, who had broken home off an attempted double steal. Evans then induced a ground out to third to end the inning with St. Al still trailing 2-1.

The Flashes, however, could not overcome Pierce. The lanky right-hander retired 15 straight, including eight straight by strikeout. The streak was broken in the sixth when he hit Martin-Nez with a high pitch.

Stringer got two insurance runs in the seventh after Beavers led off with a triple and Walters followed with a double.

Pierce struck out the first two batters in the St. Al seventh inning. He then walked Justin Rushing on a 3-2 pitch, the only time he had even fallen behind in the count since the third inning. It was his only walk. Joseph Brown managed to bring up the tying run after he got hit by a 1-1 Pierce pitch. Pierce, though, made quick work of No. 9 batter Judson Gatling to record his 18th strikeout, ending the game.

St. Al’s only offense came in the first when they strung together a two-out double by Martin-Nez followed by a RBI hit to left by Evans. Sean Weaver also singled but Pierce came back to end the inning with another strikeout.

Clinton 12, Warren Central 2

Josh Clarke went had two hits, including a home run, and drove in two runs as Clinton routed Warren Central (4-12, 2-1 Division 6-5A). Clarke also earned the win on the mound, allowing two runs in five innings. Jonathan Longmire went 2-for-2 for WC.