Destination Trustmark|French Camp next for St. Aloysius baseball team
Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 16, 2009
Some of the worst days of Clint Wilkerson’s year in 2008 were spent basking in the late spring sun watching a baseball game.
St. Al vs. French Camp
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St. Al at French Camp
Friday, 4 p.m.
St. Al hosts French Camp
As he sat in the stands at Trustmark Park last May for the Class 1A championship series between East Webster and Ingomar, it was hard not to envision his St. Aloysius team on the field. The Flashes had taken baby steps toward a state title, but hadn’t yet made the leap. East Webster had dispatched them from the playoffs a couple weeks earlier.
It was a hard pill to swallow, but an easy lesson to absorb. Don’t take anything for granted, learn and fix what went wrong, and try again next year. As St. Al prepares to start the 2009 playoffs Friday at French Camp, it’s a lesson the team seems to have taken to heart.
“The really good thing with this team, they understand that we haven’t won a title. They know what it’s like to go to Trustmark and watch a game from the stands,” Wilkerson said. “I think our older guys know what that feels like and that’s pushing them.”
As is what amounts to a two-year window to win a state championship. Every starter is back from last year’s team, but all nine are juniors or seniors. The Flashes (18-3) have incredible depth, but the clock is finally starting to tick after five years of building.
The experience built during those five years of playoff starts and stops is one of the team’s biggest assets this time. Besides the wealth of upper classmen, the Flashes have six pitchers capable of shutting teams down, a luxury in a short three-day series and a huge advantage against other 1A teams that aren’t likely to have as many arms.
Freshman Josh Eargle, seniors Joseph Brown and Sean Weaver, and junior Pierson Waring have combined to go 9-0 and have thrown 54 innings this season. Only Weaver has an ERA over 3.00. Taken as a whole, they’ve formed a strong third option behind aces Ryno Martin-Nez (3-2) and Stephen Evans (6-1).
“I would like to think we’ve got more pitching than anybody. We have a lot of pitching depth for our league,” Wilkerson said. “We feel like we’ve got four No. 3s. I don’t know if we have a two. We’ve got two No. 1s and then four No. 3s.”
St. Al isn’t all about pitching, though. It has a team batting average of .351, has clubbed 17 home runs and averages 11 runs and 10 hits per game.
As great as the season has been, though, Wilkerson is keenly aware of how quickly it can turn. Two bad games, and the Flashes will be back in the stands at Trustmark Park next month instead of on the field.
“Like I’ve told them all year, the baseball season is a marathon. You can’t start too fast and finish too slow,” he said. “It’s not about today, it’s about May. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Contact Ernest Bowker at firstname.lastname@example.org