Irish split doubleheader

AQUINAS 9-6, WALKER 8-9

 

Mike Laney wondered as late as 15 minutes before Aquinas' first state semifinal appearance whether he should tinker with the pitching rotation and game plan that improbably got his team to this series.

"We were like, 'Go big or go home,' " Laney said. "If we go out, change things up and lose, we look silly."

The Irish stuck with ace Erin Hawk in Monday's Class A opener against Walker, followed by hard-throwing junior Sam Few. The rotation stayed the same, and the games played out just like the previous two rounds for the Irish, who enter today needing a win to advance.

Aquinas won the first game 9-8 on freshman Brendan Douglas' bases-loaded seventh-inning single, then dropped the second game 9-6.

The teams will decide the series today at 2 p.m. at Aquinas. The winner will play host to defending champion Wesleyan beginning Friday in the title series.

Laney thought about saving Hawk, who won for the fourth time this postseason, for the second game in favor of Few or Bowen Klosinski. Even though the junior right-hander gave up a postseason-high eight runs, the Irish hit just well enough to prevail.

Few belted home runs in his first two at-bats and was intentionally walked with one out in the seventh before Douglas drove in the winning run with the team's 15th hit of the game.

"The fact that (Hawk) gives up eight and we still win it is big," Laney said. "We gutted out that first game."

Few gave up four runs in the first inning of the second game, but the Irish still had opportunities to win. Seddrick Dixon, who homered in the opener, struck out with the potential tying run on second base in the sixth inning. Walker, which crushed its first three playoff opponents by an average of 10.7 runs, pushed across two runs in the bottom of the inning to account for the final margin.

"We still gave them too much, but the (second) game was winnable," said Laney, whose team was pummeled 12-2 and 15-4 the previous two rounds in the second game. "We played a little better in this Game 2. It's just going to come down to the exact same thing the last two weeks: We're going to have to come out here and not give them 15 (runs). ... We're not going to win 3-2."

Said Few, "I wanted to win that last game so bad, but it was just little mistakes every now and then."

Walker, a Marietta school that won back-to-back state titles in 2001-02, will play its first decisive game of the postseason, which did not concern coach Mike Brady.

"I've got more pitching sitting there," Brady said. He said he will likely start Austin Cobb. (Aquinas will start Klosinski.)

The Wolverines planned to bus back to Marietta on Monday night before returning for the deciding game.

The Irish have scored 15 and 11 runs to advance the past two rounds and are counting on that kind of output once again.

"If we don't put up 10 runs, we're going to lose," Few said. "We've been putting up runs like crazy in Game 3s. We know they have to come through Augusta, you have to come through Augusta to win the state championship."

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