The St. James baseball team (5-2) hosted Bourbon for their first regular season home game of the season on Monday, April 10. The Tiger bats exploded for 10 runs, but Bourbon wouldn't go down without a fight. St. James was eventually able to hold the Warhawks down in the later innings to finish off a 10-7 win.
The Tigers kicked off the scoring effort in the first thanks to some free base runners. Gunnar Seams led things off by getting hit in the elbow with a pitch before swiping second base. Ty Lewis then followed him up with a walk. After Drew Bouse grounded into a force out at second, Tiger slugger Evan Grayson nearly launched a three run shot, but he pulled it foul. He went on to walk in the at bat. Lucas Bahr hit an infield fly with the bases loaded and it looked like Bourbon might get out of the inning with no harm done, but a Justin Marcee grounder to short was booted and everyone advanced safely. Jaden Roark then ran out an infield single to give the Tigers a 2-0.
Bourbon, however, was able to respond in the second. Much like the bottom of the first, a hit batsman started the inning. Seams toed the rubber for St. James and had some control problems throughout the day. He went on to walk another batter in the inning and passed balls put runners in scoring position with two outs. A single to center was all Bourbon needed to tie the game up at two.
The back and forth nature of the game continued in the bottom of the frame. St. James got a pair of runs on a double from Grayson, allowing them to retake the lead 4-2. Bourbon then scored another run in the top of the third to cut the lead back to one.
St. James had their best inning in the bottom of the third and they looked like they might be able to run away with things. After a leadoff walk from Marcee and an infield single from Roark, Alex Evans roped a two run double to chase the Bourbon starter from the game with no outs in the inning. Andrew Branson then instantly drove in Evans with an RBI single. Seams followed that with a single of his own. Lewis bunted the pair over before Bourbon elected to intentionally walk Bouse to set up a double play. Grayson had other ideas, lining a single into the outfield to drive in a run, but only one runner was able to score as Seams was gunned down at the plate. That gave St. James an 8-3 lead, but Bourbon kept hanging around.
The Warhawks kicked off the fourth with three straight singles to load the bases. Seams then hit a batter to drive in a run. St. James was able to get a force at the plate for the first out when a grounder was hit to Grayson. Seams then walked another batter for a second Bourbon run before a groundout drove in a third, bringing the score to 8-6.
The Tigers got two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to pad their lead again. Evans was able to drive in his third run of the game with a sac fly and Roark scored his second run on a passed ball. Bourbon tried to chip away at the lead in the top of the fifth, but St. James was able to work their way out of it. Seams hit a batter after getting the first two outs of the inning and a double put runners on second and third. That was the end of the line Seams with Evans coming in to relieve him. Evans got a strikeout for the third out, but a dropped ball behind the plate and an errant throw to first allowed a run to score. Evans then got a second strikeout to end the inning.
That was the end of the scoring on the night, though both teams had chances to add to their scoring efforts. At the end of the day, Seams earned the win, allowing seven runs on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts in four and two thirds innings. Only five of those seven runs were earned. Evans pitched two and a third innings in relief, allowing no runs and striking out four. Grayson and Evans led things on the RBI front by each driving in three runs. Roark also scored twice and drove in a run on two hits. He also stole two bases. Seams and pinch runner Nick Wilson also each stole two bases, while Bouse stole one and scored twice on two hits.
"I don't think he pitched too bad. I think he got a couple of batters in 1-2 counts 0-2 counts, hit a couple of batters. He walked three, which isn't terrible in five...he's done really well for us all year," said head coach Shannon Snitker of Seams. "I like what he's done this year and I hope he keeps doing that in roles just like this. If we need him to start against anybody, I need him to feel confident and throw strikes."
Snitker liked seeing the adjustments his batters made throughout the game. Monday's game was a bit of a change of pace from the Four Rivers Conference games they've played in the last few weeks.
"Well I think it's tough going from Four Rivers Conference caliber ace pitchers to people who are non-conference who are just trying to survive until they get to conference games. The speed of pitches changes greatly so it's hard on our kids," said Snitker. "I think they made a faster adjustment today then they have in the past, which obviously led to a few more runs. As long as we can make the adjustment from one to the other I think we'll be alright."
This was yet another stellar game from Evan Grayson, going 2-3 at the plate with his three RBI. He's driven in 13 runs so far this season with two home runs, three doubles and a triple. Snitker likes having such a steady hitter firmly in the middle of his lineup.
"I hate to say that that's what I expect out of Evan Grayson, but I know him pretty well and I think that's the load that he wants to bear. Obviously, I think he's pretty comfortable bearing it," said coach Snitker. We get runners into scoring or just on base with him at the plate, there's a good chance somebody is gonna score. I think he's gonna keep doing what he's doing."
St. James has a busy week on the schedule, which played into how coach Snitker managed his pitching staff. They followed Monday's game with a trip to Vienna on Tuesday, but those results were not available at press time. They will also host Union for a conference matchup on Thursday, April 13, before kicking off the Salem Tournament on Friday, April 14.
"Well I probably let Gunnar go two or three batters longer than I normally would because of that," said coach Snitker. "But you've gotta have confidence in your other kids to come in and shut the door like Alex did today. I thought he did a really good job coming and finishing the game for us."