The St. James baseball team (14-10) faced off against Helias for the Class 4 District 9 Championship on Wednesday, May 16. The Tigers had their moments, but they just couldn't string together enough hits to keep up with the Crusaders in an 8-2 loss.
Helias got things started with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Crusaders then added to that lead with a run in what proved to be a very odd second inning. An RBI single by Zach Woehr extended their lead to 3-0, but the following base hit led to a weird double play. The Crusaders had a bloop single to shallow left, but Woehr stayed near first in case the catch was made. The two Helias batters got crossed up on the basepaths and got doubled off for passing each other running the bases, ending the inning.
That looked for a moment to be just the break the Tigers needed, because they got out to a great start in the top of the third. Chessley Plank led off the inning with a walk, before a bunt single by Andrew Branson. Ty Lewis then walked to load the bases with no outs. A wild pitch to Gunnar Seams nearly led to St. James' first run of the game, but the ball bounced hard off the back wall and Plank was tagged out at home. Seams had a hard fought at bat, working the count full, but struck out, before a ground out ended the inning. The Tigers still trailed 3-0.
Helias then delivered the deciding blow in the fourth. A leadoff triple by Parker Schnieders got the ball rolling and he eventually scored on a wild pitch. Landon Harrison later smacked an RBI triple of his own, putting St. James behind 5-0.
The Tigers were finally able to get on the board in the fifth when Lucas Bahr smacked a two run double into right-center with two outs. Bahr was then stranded at second for the second time in the game, but St. James had cut the gap to 5-2.
Gunnar Seams came in to relieve Tiger starter Drew Moritz in the fifth and was instantly greeted with a leadoff triple by Alex Buschjost.. He came around to score on a squeeze play. The Crusaders added two more runs in the sixth to put St. James away 8-2.
Moritz pitched four innings for the Tigers. He allowed five runs, three of which were earned, on eight hits and two walks. Seams then pitched two innings, allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on two hits, while striking out one.
"I knew we were going to have to change pitchers, but I though Drew started to settle in a little bit and they were kinda getting frustrated because they were hitting ground balls," said head coach Shannon Snitker on his pitching. "I think they had a couple of timely hits and we put them on the bases with some walks and hit batters. If you're in a District Championship game, you've gotta work ahead in the count and you can't give people bases. Walks, hit batsmen, deep counts, those things all hurt and we were unfortunate today that some of those hits came after we helped them out a little bit. That's how the baseball bounces I guess."
Offensively, St. James collected just three hits, two of which came on doubles by Bahr. He drove in both the Tigers' runs. Drew Bouse had the only other base hit for St. James. The Tigers also walked eight times with Bouse, Lewis, Plank and Seams each walking twice.
"We played a clean game in the field defensively and then it seems like we can't get a timely hit," said coach Snitker after the game. "I'm proud of the guys. They battled the whole game."
The Tigers had been running on all cylinders late in the season, but they just couldn't get the bounces they needed on Wednesday.
"That's why you've gotta love the game of baseball to be a baseball player," said Snitker after the game. "The ball can bounce in funny directions and you can come out and have a perfect game and somebody else can come out and have a perfect game on the same day and then you get beat. It's just baseball.
"In any other sport that I've coached, if you have the superior team athletically and speed-wise, then there's a pretty good chance when you come into a game that you can pretty well count on getting a win," continued the St. James head coach. "In baseball it doesn't batter, the ball takes funny bounces. If you put the ball in play, you never know what's going to happen. We just didn't put it in play quite enough today."
It's always hard to end your season on a loss, but all but one team in each Class has to do it every year. It's especially tough for those seniors that have put in a great four years to high school baseball. Coach Snitker is extremely proud of that graduating group.
"I've coached a lot of them Monday night for 10 years starting in youth football and most of them have played multiple sports and this is the third District Championship St. James has been in this years. Football went to one, basketball went to one, baseball went to one and they're a big part of it," said coach Snitker. "It's fun to have a class that sticks with things and grinds it out and is willing to play multiple sports so you can represent your school the right way. I told them I'm just super proud of them and obviously they'll be missed."