Edinburg’s ace in the hole trips up Flashes

Published 12:28 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

EDINBURG — For the first time this season, Mitchell Wooten was on the ropes.

St. Aloysius’ hitters had stopped flailing at his curveball and they were smacking his fastball around the park. The Flashes even had a lead against the Edinburg ace.

Wooten, though, didn’t flinch. He put his team back in front with a home run, then found his groove again on the mound to turn the tables on St. Al.

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Wooten went 3-for-4, including a two-run homer in the fourth that put Edinburg (15-4) ahead for good, and sidestepped a series of jams over the last four innings to lead the Eagles to a 7-3 victory in Game 1 of a first-round Class 1A playoff series.

The loss was a big blow for St. Al (14-7). Instead of having the dominating Wooten out of the way and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, it’ll be fighting for survival when the teams meet at 1 p.m. today at Bazinsky Field. Even if the Flashes win today, a rematch with Wooten awaits Monday night in Edinburg.

It’s a similar situation to last year’s South State finals, when St. Al lost Game 1 to Stringer and ace Andrew Pierce. St. Al came back to win Game 2 at home, then advanced to the finals by beating Pierce on the road in Game 3.

“I think we’ll be all right. We’ve just got to get them the next game and force Game 3. I think we can handle Wooten now,” said St. Al center fielder Blake Haygood, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI single. “We’ve been here before, so we know what it takes to beat a good pitcher like him.”

Wooten (8-0) carved up the Flashes on his first trip through the order Friday. He struck out six batters and didn’t allow a baserunner. In the fourth inning, though, the Flashes tried the patient approach. They stopped swinging at Wooten’s curveballs in the dirt and were able to mix a bunt single by Haygood with three walks to get on the board. An RBI fielder’s choice by Ryno Martin-Nez tied the game at 2.

After needing 34 pitches to make it through the first three innings, Wooten threw that same amount in the fourth.

“That’s the most I’ve been roughed up all year,” said Wooten, who had a 0.83 ERA entering the game. He struck out 12 batters Friday and scattered five hits. “I was having trouble throwing strikes. My arm started tensing up, so I had to go behind the dugout and throw between innings. I got loose and found my zone.”

Haygood’s RBI single in the top of the fifth gave the Flashes a 3-2 lead, but they missed a chance for more when a questionable umpire’s call ended the rally. Stephen Evans hit a grounder to second, which Edinburg’s Brandon Phillips fielded cleanly and flipped to shortstop Erik Levy to force out Haygood. Levy’s throw to first appeared to pull Trey Hughes off the bag — and Hughes seemed to drop the ball as well — but Evans was called out for an inning-ending double play.

As Pierson Waring hustled around third, the home plate umpire affirmed the field ump’s ruling.

It was the first of several bad breaks for the Flashes.

In the bottom of the fifth, Edinburg’s Dekarian Wells left at about the same time Regan Nosser made a diving catch in right field for the second out of the inning. St. Al appealed, but Wells was ruled safe. Two batters later, Wooten hit his homer over the right-center field fence to give Edinburg a 4-3 lead.

After Edinburg scored three runs in the sixth to go up 7-3, St. Al put runners at second and third with one out in the top of the seventh. Haygood was called out on a borderline high strike for the second out, then Evans looked at strike three for the final out.

St. Al also had two home run-length fly balls hook just foul.

“They missed a couple of calls that led to some runs. This was a pitchers’ duel. Those were huge,” St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said.