Twice is nice St. Al crushes Myrtle 18-1, repeats as Class 1A champs

Published 11:43 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

PEARL — Two pitches into Friday’s Class 1A championship game, the tone was set for St. Aloysius.

Pierson Waring drove a 1-0 pitch into the gap in right-center field. He rounded first as Myrtle’s Larry Parks got to the ball and, ignoring a stop sign from coach Chris Buse, hustled toward second for a leadoff double.

Waring scored moments later on a single by Blake Haygood and, just like that, the Flashes were off and running with a clear message.

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This was their day. Their championship. No one was going to take it from them.

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The Flashes pummeled Myrtle 18-1 in Game 3 of the Class 1A championship series at Trustmark Park to earn their second consecutive state title. The victory brought a triumphant close to a season in which St. Al overcame injuries to two key players, a late-season losing streak and two elimination games in the playoffs to finish with a 22-8 record.

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t describe it,” St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said. “This year was such a grind. We had to battle to get back here. To do it again is unbelievable, but to do it the way we did is phenomenal.”

This season’s celebration at Trustmark lasted nearly as long as last year’s. About 45 minutes after the game ended and the stream of snapshots was starting to slow, a grounds crew member chased the Flashes off the field with a lawnmower as he began cutting grass. Last May, the team celebrated long enough for the outfield sprinklers to kick on.

“It’s one of the best feelings,” said St. Al pitcher Stephen Evans, who earned the win in Game 3 and allowed one run in 12 innings during the series. “With all the stuff we’ve been through, it’s a dream come true.”

A 10 a.m. start limited the crowd to a few hundred raucous fans, nearly all of them supporting St. Al, but the Flashes gave them plenty to cheer about.

Theyscored two more runs after Haygood’s RBI single in the first inning, then erupted for 13 runs in the second to start the party early. St. Al sent 18 men to the plate while collecting six hits, five walks and two hit batsmen.

Ryno Martin-Nez had a pair of two-run singles in the second inning and finished the game 3-for-3 with four RBIs and four runs scored. Regan Nosser struck out swinging for the second out, then redeemed himself later in the inning with the second of his three RBI singles.

Every St. Al batter came to the plate twice and all of them reached base at least once. By the time it was over, St. Al had a 16-1 lead.

“They woke up a demon after that loss. They put a spark in us,” Martin-Nez said, referring to Myrtle’s 5-4 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday.

Myrtle forced the deciding game with a late-inning comeback. As Friday’s series finale spiraled out of control, however, coach Robert Gordon could do little but tip his cap to the Flashes.

“We couldn’t throw strikes, got behind in the count, and it seemed like every part of the field that was open they were driving balls to,” Gordon said. “Today, if they weren’t hitting it we were walking or hitting them. They just had so many clutch hits. One through nine, at some point, did it for them.”

Wilkerson barked at his team to keep the pressure on, not wanting to give Myrtle even an inch of daylight. After the second inning, though, the only real question was how many runs the Flashes could score. They tacked on two more in the fourth to make it 18-1, then Evans did what he does best.

The senior right-hander needed fewer than five pitches to retire the side in the fifth. The final out was a a fitting tribute to the senior-laden team. Evans induced a grounder to Waring at short, who threw to Martin-Nez at first. All three of them have been starters since the seventh grade, and are among seven seniors in Friday’s lineup who have been starters for at least three years.

“I knew I had a group of kids that wanted to play baseball,” Wilkerson said of his initial impressions when he inherited this team in 2005. “They always accepted the challenge and met it. I don’t know if I’ll ever coach another group like them.”