By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
PEARL – Myrtle High baseball coach Robert Gordon thought his team had the momentum heading into Friday morning’s Game 3 of the MHSAA Class 1A championship series.
St. Aloysius, however, came out like a prize fighter, ready to deliver the knockout blow in the final contest of the series in front of an estimated 500 fans at Trustmark Park.
The Flashes squashed any momentum the Hawks had from their 5-4 walk-off win in Wednesday’s Game 2 by scoring 16 runs through the first two innings of Friday’s Game 3.
In the end, the Vicksburg-based school successfully defended its state championship with an 18-1 Game 3 mercy-rule victory in five innings.
“I just told the guys, ‘It’s a heavyweight fight. You don’t go into a heavyweight match tiptoeing. You go into it attacking,'” said St. Aloysius coach Clint Wilkerson. “And that’s what we did offensively.”
The Flashes (22-8), who defeated another Union County school, West Union, in last year’s championship series, won Game 1, 6-0, on Tuesday.
“I thought we could come out and compete with these guys and have a little bit of momentum from the second game, winning in the final inning,” Gordon said after his team ended its season with a 21-10 mark, “but they came back with a vengeance.”
The Flashes led 3-1 after the opening frame before blowing it open with 13 runs in the top of the second. St. Aloysius sent 18 hitters to the plate, while leaving only two on base that inning.
The Flashes took advantage of four Myrtle miscues in the field and five walks and two hit batsmen issued by two Myrtle pitchers.
Starting pitcher Beau Cummings (8-2) lasted only 12/3 innings, surrendering 11 runs (five were earned), five hits and four walks. He also hit three batters.
“We brought our No. 1 guy back, and he didn’t have his best stuff,” Gordon said. “He was all over the place. He just fought some control issues today and he couldn’t spot up anything … couldn’t throw his curveball or fastball for a strike and got behind in the count, and when he did they punished it.”
Myrtle winded up using four pitchers – Adam Baker (1/3 of an inning), Sean Wiginton (two innings) and Russ Yates (one inning) – in Game 3.
“They’re a really good hitting team,amp” Gordon said of St. Aloysius, which had 14 hits on Friday. “We haven’t faced a team that can hit that good.
“They don’t strike out much. They put the bat on the ball and they forced us to make unwanted errors.”
Ryno Martin-Nez and Regan Nosser each had three hits to lead the Flashes. Martin-Nez had two hits and four RBIs during the Flashes’ 13-run second inning.
“Every ball we hit was squared up and we were able to put barrel on pretty much anything they threw up there,” Wilkerson said.
Meanwhile, Game 1 winner, Stephen Evans, once again kept the Myrtle hitters at bay. Other than allowing back-to-back singles to Russ Yates and Jimel Judon in the first inning, the senior right-hander was masterful, allowing just one run, four hits and one walk in going the distance of a shortened game.
Judon had two of the four hits for Myrtle, including his RBI single to left to score Yates in the bottom of the first.
“They got a bulldog out on the mound,” Gordon said of St. Aloysius’ ace, who finished the season with a 12-4 record. “They are truly going to miss that guy. He’s a warrior. He’s who you want on the mound in that situation.”