St. Aloysius faces Ethel in baseball playoffs

Published 10:37 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

The St. Aloysius Flashes began the seasons with dreams of contending for a state championship. Those were tempered a bit by an up-and-down season against a tough schedule, but the Flashes are still right where they need to be — in the playoffs, with a chance to make some noise.

St. Al will go on the road today to face Ethel in Game 1 of a best-of-three first-round series. The Flashes finished third in Division 7-1A, but have plenty of upside as a talent-rich team that has held its own against some of the best in the state.

St. Al (11-9) has won six of its nine games in April, with the three losses coming to Class 6A power Northwest Rankin and Class 1A contender Cathedral.

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That schedule has contributed to some of the inconsistency the team has had in terms of wins and losses, coach Steve Hancock said.

“Every time we start to get on a roll, we’re playing Northwest Rankin. We’re playing Cathedral,” he said. “We’ve beaten some really quality teams this year. We’ve beaten Pearl and St. Andrew’s, and had a good ballgame with Northwest Rankin and two with Cathedral. I feel like we’ve competed really well since the first Vicksburg game (a 16-8 loss on March 28).”

Ethel (11-7) will be the latest in a long line of tough games. The Tigers’ pitching staff has combined for 139 strikeouts in 106 1/3 innings, and has a staff ERA of 2.44. Five pitchers, led by junior Blake McKinley, are averaging at least one strikeout per inning.

“They’re like us. You look at common opponents, they’re pretty similar. They’ve got some plus arms. We’re going to have our hands full,” Hancock said.

Especially since the Flashes will be without one of their best players.

Senior first baseman and pitcher Drake Dorbeck will miss the rest of the season with a broken rib and a spleen injury. Dorbeck is a two-time All-County player who was hitting better than .300 this season.

“He’s a strike thrower on the mound. Very good defensively at first base, and he’d done a lot of good things at the plate,” Hancock said. “Losing Drake hurts, and people are going to have to step up. It might have to be a combination of people who step up to fill that role. That’s the biggest thing, is there were so many things he brought to the table.”

Fortunately, St. Al still has plenty of weapons.

On the hitting side, players like Lane Hynum, Will Pierce and Connor Smith have been hot all season. Jacob Breeden has come on of late, with five hits in his last two games.

Four other pitchers ­— Pierce, Smith, Derek Dolan and Josh Brown — have proven themselves as reliable arms. Hancock regularly rotates in fresh arms during games, so there are 10 players on the roster who have thrown at least a few innings this spring.

Hancock wasn’t sure who would get the ball for Game 1.

The depth has led to different players stepping up from night to night, and ever-changing roles, Hancock said. Now the key is getting the right people in the right spots at the right time.

“I’m starting to get an idea of who can do what, and in what roles. But those roles have flipped over the course of the year,” Hancock said.

Prep baseball playoffs

Vicksburg vs. Center Hill

Today: at VHS, 6 p.m.

Friday: at Center Hill, 6 p.m.

Saturday: at VHS, 6 p.m. (If necessary)

Porters Chapel vs. Sylva-Bay

Today: at Sylva-Bay, 5 p.m.

Friday: at PCA, 4 p.m.

Friday: at PCA, 6:30 p.m. (If necessary)

St. Aloysius vs. Ethel

Thursday: at Ethel, 7 p.m.

Friday: at St. Al, 7 p.m.

Saturday: at Ethel, TBA (If necessary)

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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