West St. John took a big step in building it’s baseball program Wednesday afternoon.
After scoring single runs in each of the first three innings, the Rams pounded out a pair of extra-base hits in a five-run fourth inning on the way to a 10-1 win over visiting South Cameron in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs.
“Baseball here, we are beginning to be on the rise. We played the first round the last six, seven years and our guys are getting a lot better,” West St. John coach Gregory Joseph said.
With the win, the Rams, the No. 14 seed, advance to the second round at third-seeded LaSalle, which had an opening-round bye. The teams are slated to play on Monday.
It can be tough building a baseball program at a Class 1A school because of limited numbers. On Wednesday, for example, West St. John and South Cameron each only had a couple of reserves on the bench.
“My guys have only played two-and-a-half months. They all play football and when they come from football they go to basketball and they play baseball. They will not touch it (baseball) again until next February,” said Joseph.
West St. John pitcher Jalen Walker allowed no earned runs in the game despite a hamstring injury that greatly limited his mobility.
“This kid has pitched all year. He’s a warrior. He’s been hurt with a hamstring problem but never complains. He does out and does whatever I ask him. He’s a real competitor,” Joseph said of Walker.
After South Cameron, the No. 19 seed, cut the deficit to 3-1 with an unearned run in the top of the fourth inning, any thoughts of a comeback by the Tarpons (6-18) ended with West St. John’s five-run home half of the inning.
The inning opened with South Cameron pitcher Brayden Richard hitting Rams catcher Corbert Jackson with a pitch. Courtesy runner Omarion Mills advanced to second on a walk eventually came on to score on a pair of passed balls.
A two-out single by Wontrell Williams drove in a run to make it 5-1. A triple by Kylan Duhe drove in two more runs. Niko Roy followed with a double to center, scoring Duhe to make it 8-1.
“I just told my guys to be patient,” Joseph said of the big inning. “One thing about these cats, we can hit. We can swing that bat. If you just think you are going to throw that fastball by my guys, that’s not going to happen. We are going to hit that fastball and we will fight that curveball off until we get that fastball.”
South Cameron managed to stay relatively close until the Rams came up with their five runs in the fourth inning.
“We had the one big inning where things just kind of fell apart for us. A couple of young guys made some mistakes. We fought hard. We had some guys missing today and some young guys had to step up and take their spot and just had some tough mistakes that haunted us in the game,” said South Cameron coach Brendan Trahan.
West St. John (9-10) scored its final two runs of the game in the sixth inning on a run-scoring double by Roy and on a balk call with the bases loaded.
The Rams’ first run came on a run-scoring double by Duhe in the first inning.
D’Andre Gaudia came up with a one-out single to right field in the second inning and advanced to second when the ball was mishandled by the South Cameron right fielder. Gaudia stole third base and scored on the play on a throwing error by the Tarpon catcher.
Roy added a run-scoring single past first base in the third inning to make it 3-0.
South Cameron’s lone run came in the top of the fourth inning.
Austin Vincent opened the inning by reaching base on an error.
Diego Morales followed with a grounder between first and second base. Roy, the WSJ first baseman, ranged to his right to field the ball. With his momentum going toward to his right, he tried to get the lead runner out at second base. His throw went past the Rams’ second baseman and into left field. The West St. John left fielder misplayed the ball and Vincent rounded third and headed for home. He was nailed at the plate, denying the Tarpons a run.
The Tarpons eventually got their run in the inning. After Vincent’s out at the plate, Kyler Little followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Morales then scored on a ground out by Kolby Pugh.