Eagles douse Flames with rally PCA, University Christian to play for district title at Hinds on Thursday

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It would have been easy to leave Porters Chapel for dead.

University Christian was cruising with a 7-1 lead, the Eagle offense was aground on a reef, unable to string any sort of rhythm against pitcher Adam McPhail and the only noise came from the visiting dugout.

But on a night when the Eagles needed it the most, they recaptured the “Comeback Kids” never-say-die mentality of the 2009 Class 1A championship team and stunned University Christian 9-8, setting up a do-or-die rubber match Thursday at Joe G. Moss Field at Hinds Community College for the District 5A championship.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

After the Eagles allowed the Flames to rally for a victory the night before, this time, the Eagles enjoyed some role reversal.

“When they jumped out a good lead, we were playing flat,” PCA coach Jerry Bourne said. “I challenged our guys. You let them hang around last night and they came back and beat us. When they hadn’t added any runs on the board by the fifth inning, I told our guys they were letting us hang around and that it was time for them to come back and win. The guys responded dramatically.”

The heroes were too many to be counted for PCA, which erased the massive deficit with a six-run rally in the sixth.

There was senior Jeff Hearn, who lit the match on a powder keg of pent-up frustration with a RBI double that smacked off the fence with fury in the sixth. Fellow senior Montana McDaniel plated another run with a hard-hit double. When Kawayne Gaston scored the tying run off a passed ball after stealing second and third, the frustration of the previous night’s loss to the Flames and the slow start evaporated.

After Jonah Masterson reached on hard-hit ball that flummoxed University Christian shortstop Brandon Waltman, Cameron Upton drove the go-ahead run on a hard-hit single lasered to left. The Flames were forced to finally close the book on McPhail and go to reliever Landon Perkins.

Next batter Sam Staggs ripped a two-out liner that Flames’ third baseman Greg Moore could barely handle, but he fired a throw to first. The call initially was out and the Flames left the field. But the play was reversed as the other umpire saw first baseman McPhail’s foot pulled off base by the throw. One run was counted and the call would loom large in the final frame. Perkins induced a flyout to end a six-run, five-hit nightmare that gave PCA a 9-7 lead going into the seventh.

“We were scratching off runs in the later innings like we used to do, kind of like we did in 2009,” McDaniel said. “It’s contagious to get a hit. Once one guy starts hitting, everyone starts hitting.”

Another hero that saved the day for PCA wasn’t a senior, but a sophomore, Richie Bufkin. When starter Talbot Buys, who kept the Flames off the scoreboard after giving up seven runs in his first two innings, began to falter, PCA coach Jerry Bourne went to the right-hander with one out and runners on second and third.

And he delivered. Despite giving up a RBI double that sliced the lead to one and intentionally walking leadoff man Connor Smith to load the bases, Bufkin struck out Scott Cochran and induced a flyout to right to earn the save and start the celebration.

The Eagles hope to avoid a repeat of Tuesday’s slow start on Thursday. Two errors and some costly walks added up to a four-run first for University Christian before seats could even get warm. PCA scored a run off a balk by McPhail, but McDaniel was caught in a rundown off third to end the threat.

In the second, McPhail struck the big blow after Buys loaded the bases off a single, a walk and a hit batsman. The lanky Flames’ hurler blasted a three-run double to the fence to clear the bases and give the Flames their largest lead, 7-1. Buys and the PCA defense behind him recovered to retire the side without further incident.

PCA nibbled away at the lead despite stranding six runners, scoring runs in the fourth and the fifth before landing the knockout in the sixth.

“It’s always evenly-matched,” University Christian coach Jonathan Broome said of the growing rivalry between the two teams. “It just comes down to who is on the mound, who throws the most strikes and who makes the least amount of mistakes.”