Flashes nip Central Hinds; district title still undecided

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 14, 2018

In the bottom of the ninth, with one out, a runner on first and a chance at the top spot in District 3-AAA on the line, the stakes couldn’t have been higher for St. Aloysius and Central Hinds.

The game had dragged into extra innings, with phenomenal pitching on both ends slowing down what had been prolific offenses for most of the season. St. Al had taken a lead in the bottom of the sixth, but Central Hinds responded with a run of its own. Since then, no one had been able to turn the tide in their favor.

Now, with a chance to end it all and send the Flashes home with a victory, all eyes were on Kieran Theriot. He stepped to the plate, and on the first pitch smacked a hard grounder into the gap between first and second that bounced all the way to the right field wall.

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Brandon Steed took off from first base, and as he rounded third the crowd roared in anticipation of a play at the plate to decide the game. The cutoff throw from second took the catcher a few steps to the left, and Steed slid in cleanly to give the Flashes a 2-1 victory as his teammates left the dugout to mob him at the plate.

“That’s a big win for our program,” St. Al coach Sid Naron said. “That win has escaped us the last three years. They’re a great program, a great team. To be able to grind it out, that was a dogfight, and our guys found a way late in the game to get a runner on. Of course with us throwing multiple pitchers, the guys came in and made the pitches we had to. It wasn’t the cleanest game by any means, but at the end of the day being able to get the W at home and give us some momentum going into the playoffs, I feel like definitely a great win for us.”

The thrilling victory was both exactly what St. Al (16-2, 8-2 District 3-AAA) needed, and yet not quite enough. It lost 4-3 on the road at Central Hinds on Tuesday and needed to win by two runs to take the district championship outright. Head-to-head results and run differential are the first two tiebreakers, so the Flashes and Cougars are still tied for the top spot.

The Cougars and Flashes had already clinched District 3-AAA’s two playoff berths.
Central Hinds has three district games remaining and St. Al none. Another loss by Central Hinds would give St. Al the district title and a first-round bye in the MAIS Class AAA playoffs.

The third tiebreaker is how each team did against the third-place team. Even that is unclear, however. Riverfield Academy and Porter’s Chapel Academy split their season series, with each team winning by one run in their respective victories.

Riverfield beat PCA 7-6 on Friday, after PCA had won 4-3 on Tuesday.

Riverfield has several district games left and PCA has none. If Riverfield winds up in third place, Central Hinds would take the title. If it’s PCA, the championship goes to St. Al.

“Everything is still up in the air,” Naron said. “We’re treating it as if we won it as of now, and where the chips fall, we’ll go with it.”

The pitching Friday was absolutely dominant for both Central Hinds and St. Al, with both starters holding no-hitters for the majority of their outings. Wes Warnock’s single broke up Central Hinds’ bid in the bottom of the fifth, and David Barton notched the Couagrs’ only hit in the next frame, with the ball barely sneaking past Thomas Trichell’s outstretched glove moments after he made an acrobatic diving snag on a similar play.

Josh Collins shouldered most of the load on the mound for the Flashes, allowing one hit, one unearned run and two walks over six innings. He struck out four. Trichell faced three batters, struck out one and allowed one hit and one walk. Lane Hubbard threw the final two innings, allowing one walk and no hits while striking out one to preserve the win.

For Central Hinds, Spencer Smith struck out eight while allowing four hits, two walks and one earned run over five innings. Hunter Williams allowed one hit, one run and two walks in one inning.

“That’s a game that both starters deserve a win,” Naron said. “Both of them throw 100 plus (pitches), and just making some quality pitches in crucial situations. Josh giving us the start he did and having him fill some innings there, and Lane coming in at the end and getting outs is big for us for sure.”

Naron felt that his team coming through in the clutch could be a big boost as they gear up for a postseason run.

“That’s big for our confidence to be able to know that we can beat a quality team like that late in the game, even though there was so much adversity,” Naron said. “I thought we battled through some big time adversity throughout that game and showed some mental toughness, and that’s attributed to some of the leadership we have on our team. Guys were talking in the dugout in between innings, staying encouraged. Really big for us moving ahead.”