Flashes eye another championship run

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 18, 2009

PEARL — The St. Aloysius Flashes were still cleaning out their dugout at Trustmark Park on Friday night, the smiles plastered onto their faces after winning the MHSAA Class 1A championship, when someone innocently mentioned the “R” word.


“We can do this again next year,” assistant coach Chris Buse said to his boss, Clint Wilkerson.

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Wilkerson’s response was typical for a coach who had just won his first state title. He wanted to savor the moment and enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. It was easy to see, however, that his team will be an odds-on favorite to finish on top again next May.

St. Al will return seven of its 10 regular starters, including its top two pitchers. The MHSAA’s new reclassification system will remove two major obstacles from the Flashes’ path. And a team that won the school’s first baseball championship in 33 years is still hungry for more.

“I feel we’ve got as good a chance as anybody with the nucleus of the team coming back. We’ve got a group who understands the hard work it takes to get here,” Wilkerson said.

That nucleus is the main reason the Flashes will have Trustmark Park as their goal again. Only three seniors — catcher Sean Weaver, outfielder Corey Jones, and pitcher/first baseman Joseph Brown — are graduating. The rest of a roster that had an on-base percentage of over .500, a team batting average over .360, and racked up a 28-4 record, will be back.

Pitchers Stephen Evans and Ryno Martin-Nez, who started every game except one and threw all but a handful of innings during the team’s 11-1 march through the playoffs, are also coming back. In a two-game sweep of West Union in the championship series, Evans threw a six-hit shutout and Martin-Nez allowed only two hits in a 13-2 rout in the clincher.

“They’re going to be really good,” said Brown, who was 3-for-6 with three RBIs in the series against West Union. “We have one of the best junior classes in the state of Mississippi, and I’m going to be back here to see them play.”

Weaver’s spot will be the biggest hole to fill. Evans caught on the rare occasions when Weaver pitched this season, but Evans will still need someone to catch when he’s on the mound in 2010.

Freshman Josh Eargle, who pitched well at the start of this season, should slide into Brown’s slot as the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation and will also shore up the infield. In the outfield, Wilkerson used four outfielders this year. Regan Nosser and Brendan Beesley, the left field platoon, will likely split up to handle right field as well.

Along with the strong core group returning, the Flashes will get a lift from the MHSAA’s new reclassification plan. Stringer and East Webster, two of the best teams in Class 1A the past four years, are both moving up to Class 2A next season.

St. Al beat Stringer for the South State championship this year, and East Webster won Class 1A championships in 2006 and 2008.

That leaves Cathedral, which was undefeated until being swept by St. Al in the second round of this year’s playoffs, as the Flashes’ main competition in 2010. The teams will be in the same division.

“You can say that,” Wilkerson said of an easier road in 2010, “but there’s always a big bear out there you’re not looking for.”

Of course, the big bear everyone will be looking for is the Flashes. And they’re looking forward to it.

“We feel like we can do this again next year. We’ve just got to keep working hard,” Martin-Nez said.


Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com