St. Al back in 1A finals St. Al sweeps Cathedral; advances to face Myrtle

Published 12:15 am Saturday, May 15, 2010

When Ryno Martin-Nez strode out to the mound in the top of the seventh inning, it was time to soak in the moment.

Three outs away from a return trip to Trustmark Park, leading 6-2, and a roaring Bazinsky Field crowd of 900 eagerly awaiting his next move, Martin-Nez knew this was special. Especially for a senior who didn’t know he’d be playing in this situation after suffering a devastating knee injury last fall while playing football for St. Aloysius.

Cathedral got two hits to open the seventh and the Green Wave faithful, who were outnumbered 4-to-1 by the Flashes’ legion of fans, had a reason to cheer.

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Then two ground balls, the first resulting in a double play turned by Flashes shortstop Pierson Waring, and it was over.

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With a 6-2 victory in Game 2 of the South State finals, St. Aloysius was headed back to Trustmark Park to defend its Class 1A title. The Flashes will open the best-of-three state finals against Myrtle on May 25.

“Words can’t describe it. It’s the best feeling that I’ve had in a long time,” Martin-Nez said after delivering another clutch playoff performance. He was the winner of last year’s state championship clincher against West Union. Beating archrival Cathedral (19-7) was nearly as good.

Martin-Nez tossed a complete game, scattering eight hits and striking out six.

The key to the game, and the series, was how St. Al kept Cathedral’s vaunted running game in check. The Green Wave fell behind early in both games, forcing them to be more cautious on the basepaths.

“That’s how we’ve won games all year,” Cathedral coach Craig Beesley said. “But again, tonight, we got down multiple runs and that makes it hard to steal.”

For St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson, solid preparation led to series dominance. The Flashes’ two starting pitchers, Martin-Nez and Stephen Evans, held a Cathedral team that had scored 49 runs in two previous playoff series to four runs total.

“I can’t say enough about the job Ryno did on the mound and the play of our infield. Pierson played outstanding,” Wilkerson said.

Waring, a Hinds Community College signee just like Martin-Nez, was a vacuum at shortstop. He turned the key double play in the seventh and made four other ground ball outs to keep the Green Wave from mounting a comeback.

“Oh my gosh, our defense was lights out. If we don’t get that double play, we might still be playing,” Martin-Nez said. ”I really needed it, because by the seventh inning, I was cramping up on every pitch. But we’re also going to need that type of defense to win another title.”

Proper positioning by Wilkerson led to the game-deciding twin kill.

Cathedral put two men on in the seventh. But with leadoff man Aaron White up, Wilkerson had Waring shade to the middle.

“On that double play in the seventh, I knew Aaron likes to hit to the six hole, so I shaded over and made the play,” Waring said.

Cathedral took its only lead in the series by scoring a run in the top of the first inning. Upton singled and scored on Tyler Ballard’s double.

St. Al tied it in the home half of the first. Waring was hit by a pitch and scored on Reed Evans’ two-out single.

In the third, St. Al got a leadoff single from Waring, a double by Blake Haygood and a walk to Martin-Nez to load the bases. Reed Evans’ sacrifice fly scored Waring to break the tie. Stephen Evans then followed with a single up the middle to plate Haygood for a 3-1 lead.

Cathedral got a run back in the fourth but St. Al gave Martin-Nez some cushion against Cathedral’s Dylan White, who was making his first start since breaking his eye socket in an infield collision three weeks ago.

After giving up a leadoff double to Judson Gatling in the fourth inning, White fell apart with two outs. He hit Waring with a pitch and gave up a two-run single to Haygood, who later scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.

“We got on him early and just attacked every way we could,” Haygood said.