The St. James baseball team (10-6) with a pair of games against Pacific and Steelville on Monday and Tuesday, April 22 and 23. The Tigers started the week with a walk-off home run in a 5-3 conference win over Pacific, before bashing their way to a 14-12 win over Steelville.
St. James got behind the eight ball against Pacific, as the Indians struck for the first three runs of the game. After that, Andrew Branson and the Tiger pitching staff settled in. Pacific failed to score after the third inning, as St. James started their comeback on the offensive end. They started with a run in the fourth, before tacking on two more runs in the sixth to tie up the game. Dylan Hopper came in to pitch the top of the seventh, pitching a shutout inning to bring the Tigers to the plate with a chance to win in the bottom of the frame.
That's when Lucas Bahr stepped up. After missing the team's matchup with St. Clair due to an injury, Bahr took a few innings to get into a rhythm at the plate. After failing to get a hit in the first six innings, Bahr stepped up to the plate with a runner on in the final inning. He managed to not only get a hit, but launch the game-winning home run to lift St. James to a 5-3.
"He's done a really good job, he's hitting the baseball well," said head coach Shannon Snitker. "He had to miss the St. Clair game due to an injury and it took him a couple of at bats to get his swing going again against Pacific, so that may have been kind of a blessing in disguise. They pitched to him because he hadn't done much and he hit the ball hard and won the baseball game for us. It was a fun win."
Bahr wasn't the only run producer on the game, as Rustin Branum and Derek Skaggs each drove in a run on one hit. Lyndon Carson added a pair of hits, while Dyllan and Garret Gibson each had a base knock.
On the mound, Branson overcame a couple of early bumps in the road to have a solid start. He allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings, walking one while striking out a dozen batters. Bahr's late home run gave the winn to Hopper, who struck out one while pitching the top of the seventh.
"I think we've won every game he's pitched in," said coach Snitker on Branson. "I'm not trying to jinx him, but he just seems to be the guy that can pick us up when we need to be picked up. He just keeps doing his job and sometimes it takes us a while to follow suit, but it seems like in every game he's pitched we finally come through later in the game to get the win. He doesn't always get the win, but he doesn't care about that, he's a super good team guy."
The Tigers carried that late offensive momentum right into their matchup with Steelville on Tuesday because the bats got started early. St. James used a mix of patience at the plate and timely hitting to smack in seven runs in the top of the first and got out in front 10-0 after three innings. Steelville wasn't ready to call it a day though, as they clawed back into the game thanks to the bat of Garret Marshal. He was locked in with three home runs and eight RBI on the day and helped Steelville close the gap to 11-9 heading into the final inning. St. James managed to get three insurance runs in the top of the frame, which proved to be important, as Steelville scored three in the bottom of the seventh. Hopper came in and got the final two outs to seal a 14-12 win for the Tigers.
"The seven spot right off the bat was obviously all needed since it came down the final score of 14-12," said coach Snitker. "It took us a while to get going against Pacific the night before and I don't think we had the quality of at bats we do at the end of games, so I told them let's start the game with good quality at bats. Be aggressive, but you have to be disciplined...they did a really good job of that."
Dyllan Gibson was a huge bat for St. James in the win, going 5-5 with four runs scored and three RBI in the win. Coach Snitker is impressed by how well he's settling in to the middle of the lineup.
"Dyllan is settling in to the four hole. I tried a couple of kids there, but as a senior he's starting to figure out how to hit in that spot," said the St. James head coach." You're going to get every team's pitcher's best pitches every time you're at the plate, so you've gotta take care of mistakes when they make them. He did a really good job of that last night."
Skaggs and Tyler Teague each drove in two runs in the win, while Logan Saxbury, Bahr, Branson, Branum and Carson each added an RBI of their own. Bahr had three hits in the win, while Teague had a pair of knocks. As a team, St. James had 13 hits, while also having the patience to draw eight walks in the win.
Skaggs got the win for the Tigers in the mound, allowing six runs on five hits and five walks in four and a third innings of work. He struck out five along the way. Teague pitched two innings in relief, allowing six runs on four hits and four walks. Hopper got the final two outs to earn the save.
The Tigers will hopefully face off against New Haven for their final Four Rivers Conference game of the season on Thursday, but weather and field conditions may make that difficult. After that, St. James' next game will come on the road at Waynesville on Monday, April 29. St. James has just five games left on their regular season slate and coach Snitker hopes that the strong start to this week, which give St. James a four game winning streak, will give them the confidence they need to finish the season strong.
"Confidence is a big deal in baseball, momentum, confidence, those kinds of things. If the kids can start putting the baseball in play with runners in scoring position and scoring a lot of runs, because scoring runs is fun, hopefully that keeps them in tune and keeps them in a good mindset for the next game," said coach Snitker. "Hopefully that will lead to some wins in the most important part of the season in about a week and a half."