Flashes focus on first step, not final goal

Published 11:30 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

The St. Aloysius Flashes have a long history with Stringer.

They don’t want to hear about it.

The Flashes are one of the top contenders for the Class 1A championship.

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They don’t want to think about it.

They’re on a roll, having won eight of their last 10 games.

They don’t want to dwell on it.

The Flashes’ focus is squarely on the step ahead of them. It happens to be Stringer, their opponent in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs. That it’s the team that ended their season in 2013 is ancient history, coach Derrik Boland said, and has no bearing on his team’s preparation or approach.

“Our philosophy is to play the game. We’re not playing against an opponent, we are playing against the game,” Boland said. “That simplifies and slows the game down. It keeps pressure and hype down, and helps keep the guys relaxed. That’s how good teams approach the game.”

Since losing five of their first seven games — all against schools in larger classifications — St. Al has gone 11-3 and is 13-8 overall.

Tonight’s series opener with Stringer will be the team’s first game in nine days, but Boland said he’s worked scrimmages into the practice schedule and feels like the long layoff won’t have an affect on his squad.

“Unlike most coaches, I like the layoff. It gives our guys a chance to rest and let arms heal, and also allows for some people to get over nagging injuries,” Boland said. “We have scrimmaged to keep our timing and things down. So I think the layoff helps overall.”

A long layoff might be the easiest thing the Flashes have had to deal with this season, and if they handle it as well as some of the other adversity thrown their way they’ll be fine.

Injuries and slumps from key players threatened to derail the season at several points. The Flashes, though, have had unheralded players step in and fill those gaps or contriubute in other ways and not missed a beat.

Derek Dolan, for example, was not in the starting lineup when the season began. He became the everyday right fielder when Will Pierce, one of the team’s best hitters, suffered a season-ending knee injury during a game on March 11.

Dolan ­— who missed all of last season with his own knee injury — is hitting a team-best .473 and has also been a contributor in the pitching rotation.

Last year’s leading hitter, Drake Dorbeck, is batting just .277 this season but has made up for it on the mound. In 24 2/3 innings pitched, he has not allowed an earned run.

George Tzotzolas and Wailes Kemp have each raised their averages by more than 100 points. Outfielder Connor Smith, who didn’t even play baseball last season, is hitting .292 with 15 RBIs.

“We’ve had a lot of changes over the season and guys have had to play different roles at different points in the season,” Boland said. “It goes back to making adjustments. If something different is thrown at them, they just make an adjustment and carry on.”

Boland added that the ability to roll with and overcome adversity stemmed from a team-first attitude all of his players seem to share.

“The good thing is, all of them are focused on winning, focused on the team, and doing whatever they have to do to help the team win, regardless of what role they’re handed,” Boland said. “They accept their role and run with it.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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