Flashes put up fight, but lose to NW Rankin

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, April 7, 2015

St. Aloysius catcher George Tzotzolas, right, tags Northwest Rankin’s Zach Boone for the final out of the first inning Monday. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

St. Aloysius catcher George Tzotzolas, right, tags Northwest Rankin’s Zach Boone for the final out of the first inning Monday. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

FLOWOOD — Northwest Rankin mastered the art of hitting the ball 60 feet to move its runners 90 feet, and stepped on the toes of St. Aloysius’ upset bid.

Infield singles accounted for four of the Cougars’ seven hits, and they scored four runs on balls that didn’t reach the outfield to beat St. Al 5-0 Monday afternoon.

“Against a team like this, they’re a 6A, we’re a 1A and they’re loaded, we can’t make mistakes,” St. Al coach Steve Hancock said. “But I was very pleased with the way our team competed. It’s not like we were overmatched.”

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The competitive loss to one of the best teams in Class 6A was a shot in the arm for the Flashes (6-8) heading into a doubleheader today at 5 p.m. at home against Division 7-1A rival Pelahatchie.

St. Al had lost four of five before routing Riverside 18-1 on Saturday. That win, coupled with Monday’s solid performance, seemed to boost the team’s spirits some.

“That’s a quality team. They’re a 6A school, we’re 1A. They have 600 kids to choose from and we have 50. It’s always good to play a team with the ability that we played today,” said St. Al’s Will Pierce, who pitched two strong innings, hit a double and threw a runner out at the plate after moving to right field. “That shows that’s not who we are at all, and that we’re capable of coming out here and putting up a fight against a good 6A school like Northwest.”

Pitchers for both St. Al and Northwest Rankin (17-1) threw well.

St. Al’s Pierce and Derek Dolan combined to scatter seven hits and danced out of trouble all game long. Northwest’s Ian Ladner allowed just three hits, walked thrre and struck out 11 in a complete game victory.

Neither team covered itself in glory on the basepaths, however.

St. Al had two runners thrown out trying to steal and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. It didn’t get a hit until Pierce doubled with two outs in the fourth inning.

Northwest Rankin hit into two double plays — one on a line drive, another on a fly ball — had two runners thrown out at home, and another picked off of first.

The net result was a bit of an odd game that St. Al could have kept much closer or Northwest could have blown open with a hit or two either way.

“For a 1A school they do a goof job of coaching and they’ve got some pretty good players,” Northwest Rankin coach Jeff McClaskey said. “Yeah, we’re better than they are without a doubt. But that’s just baseball right there. We beat them 5-0 and we didn’t really swing the bat very well. They did a good job keeping us off-balance.”

The Cougars, though, found some ways to get runs home.

Damione Grayer and Jackson Hailey each drove in runs with infield hits in the first and second inning. Acy Owen singled in a run in the third on a ball that actually did reach the outfield, and the Cougars added two more in the fifth on a passed ball and an error.

Hailey, in a line score indicative of the game’s path, reached base three times. He had an RBI infield hit in the second inning, was hit by pitches in the fourth and sixth, and finished 1-for-1 with an RBI, three stolen bases and two runs scored.

“That’s just luck,” McClaskey said. “I’d much rather hit some P-rods in the gaps, but we’ll take what we can get and move on.”

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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