PCA hosts UCS today in deciding third game|[04/25/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008

FLOWOOD – University Christian survived bad breaks, bad bounces and, in their eyes, a few bad calls Thursday night. Now, if it can vanquish its biggest bad guy it’ll be able to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the Porters Chapel Eagles.

University Christian overcame five errors, a reversed call that took two runs off the board, and a furious comeback by PCA to win Game 2 of their first-round MPSA Class A playoff series, 7-6.

The decisive Game 3 of the best-of-three series is tonight at 6 at PCA. To advance, all the Flames have to do is find a way to beat PCA ace Matt Cranfield, who has beaten them three times this season – including a no-hitter in Game 1 of the series on Tuesday. In 39 innings against UCS this season, Cranfield has allowed four hits and has 36 strikeouts.

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“Something changed” from Game 1 to Game 2, University Christian coach Jonathan Broome said. “They didn’t have Cranfield on the mound. They’re going to throw him tomorrow. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll be tired.”

Mark Kaplan threw seven strong innings for University Christian, allowing four hits and two earned runs. He struck out nine. Dillon Chappell went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Taylor McKenzie also knocked in two runs for the Flames (14-11). Chris May homered for PCA (17-10) and Joe Borrello had an RBI double.

Each team badly hurt itself with mistakes. University Christian committed four errors in the fifth inning, allowing PCA back into the game after it had fallen behind 5-1, while the Eagles’ pitchers struggled with their control all night. Four pitchers combined to walk 10 batters and hit two others. UCS only had five hits, and the teams combined for nearly as many errors (eight) as hits (nine).

“(Kaplan) can pitch. He’s a good pitcher. We scored six runs, that should be enough to win,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “Twelve free passes and four errors. We did not pitch well enough or play well enough to win.”

Today’s gamePCA host University Christian, 6 p.m.University Christian jumped out to a 5-1 lead with four runs in the bottom of the third, but nearly had more. McKenzie’s two-run single gave the Flames the four-run lead and put runners at second and third, and Landon Perkins followed with another grounder up the middle that brought in two more runs.

After the play was over, though, Wright jumped out of his chair to argue. McKenzie, who was on second, had screened PCA shortstop Clayton Holmes from the ball. Wright argued that McKenzie should have been called out for runner interference and, after a 10-minute discussion and a heated objection from Broome, the umpires agreed.

The reversal kept the score at 5-1, and the Eagles were able to get out of the inning without further damage.

The Flames’ four errors in the fifth inning helped PCA close the gap to 5-3, but they got the runs back in the bottom of the inning to push the lead back to four runs. UCS only had one hit in the inning, relying on two walks, a hit batter and an error to move runners around the basepaths.

Three straight hits, including an RBI double by Borrello, and another error pulled PCA within a run in the sixth inning, at 7-6, and it threatened to tie the game in the seventh.

Colby Rushing reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second, then broke for third when the catcher’s throw sailed into center field. Chappell made a strong throw to third that easily beat Rushing. Rushing did his best to elude the tag, but was called out.

Wright argued the call again, but couldn’t convince the umpires this time.

Cranfield, PCA’s best hitter, then lifted a harmless fly ball to Chappell in center for the final out.

“It affects the game a lot,” PCA catcher Josh Hill said of the game’s two pivotal calls. “I don’t want to blame it on the umpires. Anybody can do that.

“It’s more our fault. We didn’t do what we needed to.”