Title defense for Flashes starts tonight

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2010

If the St. Aloysius Flashes are to make it back to Trustmark Park and defend their Class 1A baseball title, they will have to overcome an obstacle named Mitchell Wooten and his Edinburg Eagles.

Flashes coach Clint Wilkerson has heard plenty about Wooten and two of the sources come from his own team, Hinds Community College signee Pierson Waring and 2009 Vicksburg Post Co-Player of the Year Stephen Evans.

“Pierson and Red (Evans) were teammates with Wooten last summer on the (Jackson) 96ers. He was their No. 1 pitcher. Pierson played shortstop behind him and said his stuff was ‘filthy,’” Wilkerson said Tuesday.

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“He’d be the No. 1 starter on any team in Mississippi from the things I’ve heard. The coach at Carthage compared him to Roy Oswalt. He hasn’t signed Division I because of his size,” Wilkerson said.

Wooten is just under six foot tall, but his arm strength and 2010 pitching numbers belie his lack of size. He throws from the consistent upper 80’s to near 90 mph on his fastball and uses a changeup that comes in at 72 mph.

“That’s stout,” Wilkerson.

St. Aloysius has seen stout pitchers both this season and in its 2009 run to the state championship. They had to face Stringer ace Andrew Pierce twice in the South State championship series last year.

“I saw where Pierce was the National Junior College Pitcher of the Week down at Jones, so we know he’s good. And this year we’ve faced (Jackson) Posey from Sumrall and (Wes) Stokes from West Lauderdale,” Wilkerson said.

Wooten’s numbers would make him a Mr. Baseball candidate, provided Edinburg (14-4) could get by both St. Aloysius and Cathedral and make it to the 1A finals at Trustmark Park.

In 11 appearances, he has struck out an amazing 105 batters in 49 innings pitched, just over a two an inning. He has yielded just 12 hits in the 11 appearances and only three earned runs. His ERA stands at a miniscule 0.43.

“What is even more impressive is the .171 on-base percentage allowed. That means he doesn’t walk people and they don’t hit him either with a .072 batting average against,” Wilkerson said.

The rest of the Eagles’ staff is more pedestrian, which gives the Flashes optimism in a three-game series. Edinburg’s No. 2 in Brandon Phillips is 4-3 with a 4.69 ERA. Austin Vowell is the No. 3 with a 3-0 mark and a 4.60 ERA.

Offensively, Wooten is the leader for the Eagles with a .500 average with 10 extra base hits and 21 RBIs. Trey Hughes (.456, 19 RBIs) and Dekarian Wells (.412, 10 RBIs) provide protection.

St. Al’s strength has been its schedule compared to Edinburg’s. The Eagles lost both of its games against top-shelf competition Union.

The Flashes (14-6), meanwhile, took on No. 1 Sumrall and played them to an 8-2 game in Sumrall. They beat last year’s 4A state champions, West Lauderdale, and also beat a 20-win Kosciusko club. The two wins came during the club’s 11-0 start. Then they hit a midseason slump, losing four straight, but then won three out of the last four with the lone loss being to Sumrall.

The team also got some good news as its other Hinds signee, Ryno Martin-Nez, will return to the line-up against Edinburg after tweaking his knee two weeks ago.

“We’ll play him at first base in an effort to not stress his knee. He also got in a 30-pitch session on the mound. I was pleasantly surprised because he hadn’t thrown against a live batter in a year. I just don’t think he’ll pitch in the first series. We’ll go with Red in Game 1. I don’t know about 2 or 3.”

Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com