St. Al survives for wild, wooly win vs. Ethel

Published 10:25 am Friday, April 24, 2015

Somehow, driving to the wrong field and barely making it to Ethel in time for the first pitch was not the strangest thing to happen to the St. Aloysius Flashes on Thursday.

St. Al scored seven runs in the top of the seventh inning, got the benefit of a controversial call in the bottom half, and took Game 1 of their Class 1A playoff series with Ethel 9-8.

“We won 9-8. And had no business doing it,” St. Al coach Steve Hancock said. “We stole one. But we stole it because there was a crack and we ran through it.”

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Game 2 is tonight at 7 at Bazinsky Field. If a Game 3 is necessary, it’ll be Saturday at Ethel.

Because of a miscommunication, St. Al’s bus driver missed the turn off I-55 and drove nearly 100 miles past the exit for Ethel. The team stretched and went over the game plan on the bus and made it to the field about 30 minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. start time.

Once there, they fell behind 8-2 as Ethel’s Ladarious Erving went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and starting pitcher Blake McKinley breezed through the lineup.

Through six innings, McKinley allowed two runs and struck out five. He plunked Connor Smith to start the seventh, however, and things fell apart in a hurry.

A hit and a walk loaded the bases, then Will Pierce crushed one over the center field fence for a grand slam that chopped the Flashes’ deficit to 8-6. It was the first home run St. Al has hit all season.

McKinley was pulled after that, but reliever Trey Tollison fared no better. He gave up a hit and two walks to load the bases again. Smith, batting for the second time in the inning, delivered a single to center to bring in two runs to put the Flashes ahead 9-8.

“We did some really important things to stay in the game, and the grand slam was huge. It was like a punch in the nose,” Hancock said.

Ethel finally got out of the inning, and threatened in the bottom of the seventh. Erving led off with a walk, and Cody Weeks tried to bunt him to second.

As Erving slid into second base, his head hit the leg of St. Al second baseman Lane Hynum. Erving appeared to be knocked unconscious and came off the bag. Hynum tagged him.

Erving lay on the ground for more than 30 minutes until an ambulance came to take him to the hospital. Hancock said Erving had a knot on his neck, but was moving and talking as he was carted off.

Once the game was set to resume, there was the matter of the play that caused the delay. Ethel’s coach argued that because of the injury, the runner should be safe. Hancock argued that Erving should be out since he left the base, no matter the reason.

Hancock’s logic prevailed, and the out stood. Instead of runners at first and second and no outs, Ethel had just one runner on base and one out. Smith, who had come on in relief, retired the last two batters without incident and the Flashes escaped with a victory.

“I felt bad. I told their coach, I know it sounds callous, but time hadn’t been called,” Hancock said about the call on Erving. “It’s like sliding through a bag. You have to maintain possession of it. I can’t ever remember seeing that before. But I think the umpire got it right. You have to finish the play.”

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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