After sixth district loss, Saints vow to keep fighting

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Matt Mason has a plan on keeping a young Trinity Episcopal team focused and playing hard even when things don&8217;t go its way and the district losses start to pile up.

Take Wednesday night.

The Saints&8217; 5-3 loss to Oak Forest epitomized a game of tough breaks with more hard-hit balls than they&8217;ve had in some time. The Yellow Jackets, however, made the plays and got the breaks themselves to secure the District 4-AA win and send the Saints to their sixth loss in district.

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But for a team that won just one district game last season, the Saints vow to keep fighting. Because their coach won&8217;t let them slack off.

&8220;This group of kids is used to winning in everything they do,&8221; said Mason, whose club is now 2-6 in district. &8220;That&8217;s part of our philosophy at Trinity &8212; no matter what we&8217;re doing, we&8217;re playing to win. They understand we&8217;ve got a great ball club and a great future as long as we keep working hard. If we leave the ball park knowing we&8217;re a better ball club than we&8217;ve been, we&8217;ve accomplished one goal.&8221;

That&8217;s the solace to be found in the loss, along with some of the other losses the Saints have endured in district. The scores haven&8217;t been as lopsided as they were earlier in the season.

And it&8217;s come while the team&8217;s only senior Kyle Dunaway has returned to the hospital to have a cancer tumor removed. Mason&8217;s juggling of the lineup Wednesday resulted in two eighth-graders getting a start.

&8220;We&8217;re a bunch of juniors, sophomores,&8221; junior Stevan Ridley said. &8220;In football, next year is supposed to be our year. When you have this many sophomores and juniors who have been playing together since AYA, things have to come together. They have to. We&8217;ve got to work and not fold our tents and quit. We&8217;ll keep battling.&8221;

They can listen to the Yellow Jackets speak of their frustrations in recent weeks heading into their two wins over Trinity this week. They limped out to a 2-3 mark in district and were wondering if things were ever going to jell for them.

The last two nights have changed that story, including Wednesday when their defense came up huge to keep the Saints from moving baserunners and threatening to take the lead.

&8220;All I know is we&8217;ve got to win (from here),&8221; Oak Forest head coach Joe Weaver said. &8220;I challenged the guys to believe that we can do it. Tonight was huge. We haven&8217;t had a lot of breaks this year. The last few games we&8217;ve had a lot of breaks go our way, and that&8217;s huge in the game of baseball.&8221;

It happened that way in the last of the seventh when eighth-grader R.J. Fleming hit a line shot in the gap that Mark Thompson made a diving grab on. It happened in the sixth when the Saints had a double from Blaine Misita that scored Wells Middleton for the Saints&8217; third run but a groundout to second ended the inning.

And a botched double-steal attempt in the fifth allowed the Yellow Jackets to get the force out at second to end the inning.

&8220;They played great defense,&8221; Mason said. &8220;I thought we hit the balls that were going to fall. They made some great plays, and that was the difference in the ball game. They had a couple find the holes, and we had a couple that didn&8217;t. We&8217;re starting to swing the bat a lot better. We&8217;re starting to hit the ball solid.&8221;

The Saints picked up their second run in the fourth when Ridley got to third and scored on an errant pickoff move. But things could have been worse after Ridley reached second to open the inning and reached third on Middleton&8217;s sacrifice bunt.

Middleton nearly reached base on a slow roller inside the bag, but first baseman Brandon Zachary tossed to second baseman Gabe Woods just in time for the putout and for Woods to avoid a collision with Middleton.

&8220;That&8217;s something we always talk about &8212; avoid the big inning,&8221; Weaver said. &8220;That could have been big. Woods was on second, and he&8217;s an eighth-grader. I absolutely love him. I think he&8217;s going to be a great ball player potentially as an eighth-grader.&8221;

The Yellow Jackets got out in front early with a run in the second and three more in the third off Ridley. Shane Holland singled in German Hayes in the first for a 1-0 lead, and Hayes&8217; double scored Mark Thompson before a throwing error on the play scored Randall Miller.

Holland followed that with a single to score Hayes.