St. Aloysius can’t get big hit against Tri-County

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Already in this academic year, Tri-County Academy has won MAIS Class A state championships in football and basketball. The Rebels hope to make it a sports trifecta with a baseball title in May.

Tri-County certainly has the talent to do so with Mississippi State signee Derek Martin at shortstop and two hard-throwing pitchers, Lane Williams and Trent Driver, at the top of the rotation.

That might explain why St. Aloysius coach Derrik Boland was pleased with how well his Flashes did Tuesday night against Tri-County at Bazinsky Field.

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St. Al played its best game of the young season, taking the loaded Rebels (4-0) the distance in a 3-1 loss. The Flashes, in fact, were one big hit away from an upset.

They did not get it thanks to a dominating relief job turned in by Driver, who struck out seven over the last three innings to nail down the victory.

Boland said the Flashes continued their progress from Saturday, when the split a pair of games at the Little Mid-Mississippi Classic at St. Andrew’s. After three lopsided losses to start the season, St. Al beat Hazlehurst and played St. Andrew’s well for five innings.

“This is probably the best team we’ve played in terms of pitching, defense and hitting,” Boland said of Tri-County. “But I was able to put on my guys a mindset to get a little better every day. If we do that, we will be playing our best baseball at the end.”

St. Al (1-5) made it game against Tri-County because its pitchers threw strikes and they got the defense to make plays behind them. The Flashes committed only one error.

Tri-County coach Ricky Owens, who played against Boland in college at Belhaven, agreed that St. Al played well.

“This was our first game against some good pitching,” Owens said. “With this being our first real outing, we just wanted to throw strikes. As for trying to win state in baseball, we’re not thinking about it.”

Tri-County strung three hits together in the top of the third inning to net two runs and take a 3-0 lead. A.J. Boutwell’s two-out double was the big blow. The hit scored Driver, who had led off the third with a single. Wyatt McClasky’s single followed up Boutwell’s double to make it 3-0.

St. Al got a run back in the bottom of the third inning. Andrew Collins singled with one out, got sacrificed to second and scored on Tri-County’s lone error of the game, an overthrow of first base on a ball hit by Matt Mims.

The Flashes threatened to tie it in the fourth inning off a tiring Williams, a Hinds Community College commitment. Neal Ricks and Will Pierce laced back-to-back hits to put two on with one out. George Tzotzolas’ grounder advanced the runners. Lane Hynum’s liner appeared on its way to falling, but the catch was made in shallow center to end the threat. Driver took the mound in the fifth, and after two walks, settled in and kept St. Al off balance with a slicing fastball.

“We just didn’t get the timely hit,” Boland said. “But I was proud of my pitchers. All of them did a great job hitting their spots.”

St. Al starter Collins worked the first three innings. He got the loss with three runs allowed off four hits. Patrick Murphy had three scoreless innings of relief and struck out three while freshman Connor Smith sat the Rebels down in order in the seventh.

Pierce, an eighth grader, had two singles to lead the St. Al offense. Tri-County was paced by McClasky’s two hits.