The St. James baseball team (14-9) didn't get off to the start they were hoping for when they faced off against Southern Boone for the District Semi-Final on Monday, but the Tiger's weren't going down without a fight. A five-run third gave St. James a lead they wouldn't surrender for a 9-6 win to set up a District Championship matchup with Helias.
The first inning was an odd one for the Tigers. After being held scoreless in the top of the frame, St. James' Drew Bouse got outs on his first two pitches of the game. After that, the inning went downhill. Bouse walked the next batter, before a double by Parker Boyce. A groundout nearly ended the inning, but an error by Gunnar Seams brought the first run in to score instead. Two more walks let another run come around, before a two-run single by starting pitcher Nate Allen put the Tigers behind 4-0. Bouse got a strikeout to end the inning, but St. James had some work to do.
After both teams were held scoreless in the second, St. James went off in the third. Chessley Plank kicked off the inning with a single, before a double by Andrew Branson. Ty Lewis followed that with a grounder to the mound, but Plank beat the throw home and St. James was on the board. Branson then came around to score on a balk, before an RBI double by Seams. Lucas Bahr then tied the game with an RBI single, before an RBI double put the Tigers in the lead 5-4.
St. James wasn't done yet, either. They added another run in the fourth to extend their lead on an RBI infield single by Branson. Bouse kept the Eagles at bay all this time, eventually leaving after four innings of work. He allowed just one hit and four unearned runs in that span. Bouse struck out six, but also walked six batters on his way to the win.
"I'll tell ya what, he's done a really good job for us this year," said head coach Shannon Snitker of his starting pitcher. "He's done a really good job of keeping us in the ballgame without giving hits. If we can field the baseball and keep hitting, then good things should happen."
Ty Lewis came in and pitched a scoreless fifth, before the Tigers got a few insurance runs. Seams got the run production going with an RBI double, which caused Southern Boone to go to the bullpen. The pitching change didn't give the Eagles the instant help that they needed, as Bouse smacked a two-run double to extend the Tigers' lead to 9-4.
Southern Boone punched back in the bottom of the inning with a pair of runs. After Lewis walked the leadoff hitter, he was able to induce a grounder. The Tigers went to turn two, but the throw got away and both runners were safe. Southern Boone then scored on an infield single and a fielders choice. Lewis was able to settle down and get out of the inning with a 9-6 lead in tact.
Lewis went on to pitch a clean ninth inning to finish off the three inning save. He allowed two hits and two unearned runs. Lewis struck out two and walked two in his three innings of work.
"That kid has been with me for 10 years. I've coached him in football and I've coached him in baseball for three years now. I know if I need something done, then he's do anything I'd ask him to do. He doesn't care, he's not selfish at all," said Snitker about Lewis. "He's all about the team and you wish you had nine guys like that all night long."
Offensively, St. James went off for 14 hits as a team. Branson led the charge with three hits, two of which were doubles. He scored twice and drove in a run. Seams was an RBI machine, driving in three runs on two doubles, while scoring twice. Bahr and Evans both had two-hit games, while driving in a run a piece, while Lewis added a pair of hits.
Coach Snitker was happy to see his team get over the bad first inning and fight their way to a win.
"I'm really impressed with the resiliency obviously," said coach Snitker. "They did a really good job of taking it one step at a time and just getting a base runner, then two, then three, then hitting the baseball. I'll tell you what, we've been hitting the baseball well in the last two weeks."
While the Tigers got the win, it wasn't exactly the perfect ballgame. St. James committed six errors, but they survived to keep fighting another day. Coach Snitker gives his pitchers a lot of credit for fighting through those errors.
"I gotta tip my hat to the pitchers, because they could've gotten really frustrated really fast tonight," said the St. James head coach. "They stayed in the moment and in the game. I'd like to see us stay out of the 3-2 counts, we got too many of those and it gets our pitch count up, but fighting through errors in the infield and throwing strikes, keeping your head down and fighting like a dog. There's nothing wrong with that."
The Tigers will face Helias for the District Championship on Wednesday afternoon. The Crusaders (18-7) are the top seed in the District and beat Blair Oaks 8-2 on Monday.