SEMINARY, MS (WDAM) - Seminary High School spent the better part of Friday night chasing the strike zone, and as a result, spent all evening chasing St. Andrew's Episcopal High School on the scoreboard.
St. Andrew's tagged Seminary pitching for 11 hits and gladly accepted 11 walks from the Bulldogs, filling the basepaths with a flock of Saints as it evened its Class 3A South State championship baseball series with a 12-5 victory at Bulldog Field.
"We couldn't find the strike zone and that was the difference in the game," Seminary coach Jeff Graves said. "We came out and had issues finding the strike zone and commanding the off-speed (pitches). When you don't have anything but a fastball, they know what to do with that, and that was the case here (Friday)."
St. Andrew's bounceback from an 11-1 loss in Thursday night's opener set up a third and deciding game in the best-of-three series at 7 p.m. Saturday in Ridgeland.
"We made some good plays, they made some good plays, it was a good high school ballgame," St. Andrew's coach Mark Fanning said. "Great atmosphere, and we look forward to (Saturday) night.
"We know they're not going away. They'll be ready to play, and we'll be ready to play and it's the two teams that everybody thought was going to meet for South State, and now we're meeting. It should be a fun night for everyone."
St. Andrew's (30-6) had much more fun Friday than it did Thursday, when the Saints managed just two hits and a run and made three errors.
Friday, the Saints wasted little time in rectifying that offensive lapse, scoring three runs on four hits in their initial at-bat to grab a lead they never lost.
Sam Roffwarg led off with a ringing double to the wall in the left-center gap off Seminary starter Fisher Norris (1-2) and moved to third on Avery Thomas' infield single. Roffwarg made it 1-0 when he came home on Banks Tolley's sacrifice fly to right and Thomas scored a batter later when C. J. Carron doubled him in for a 2-0 lead.
After moving to third on a grounder to the right side, Carron made it 3-0 on David DuCote's solid single into right-center field.
"We were able to get the lead early, which helped a lot," Fanning said. "Our hitters were able to relax, our pitchers were able to attack the strike zone a little more and our defense played better. It's so much easier to play with a lead than worry that there's going to be so much separation that you can't catch them."
Catching up was exactly what the Bulldogs (21-11) set out to do. Adarius Myers, who had homered twice in Thursday's game, crushed 1-2 pitch from St. Andrew's starter Holland Townes over the left-center field wall to get Seminary back within 3-1 after an inning. It was Myers ninth home run of the season.
Norris was pulled with two outs in the second inning after St. Andrew's loaded the bases on a single by Dickson Ray and two walks. But left-hander Wilson Lott came in and got a flyout to end the threat.
Lott lost the strike zone in the fourth inning, walking the bases full before Townes came through with a two-out, two-run single to put the Saints ahead 5-1.
But Seminary came right back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning. Norris, a University of Southern Mississippi signee, singled the opposite way to open the inning, Landry McQueen walked and Connor Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
A fielder's choice grounder, a single by Mikey Jackson and an error pulled the Bulldogs back within 5-4 and when Townes walked Myers to reload the bases with two outs, Roffwarg (5-1) came to the mound in relief and got a popup to end the inning.
The Saints quickly grabbed back the momentum. Evan Bowman singled to lead off the inning, and when Lott walked Ray, he gave way to Jackson.
Jackson got a force out at third but then walked Roffwarg to load the bases. A fielder's choice grounder scored one run, and Tolley followed with a two-out, full-count, three-run shot to left-center for his third home run of the year and a 9-4 lead.
"There were a couple of times where he almost got it, but that time, he got it good," Fanning said.
Graves said going down by five runs, in and of itself, did not doom the Bulldogs.
"We've scored runs in bunches all year, so (the three-run homer) is not a deflater for us from the standpoint of our offensive capabilities," said Graves, who has seen his team rebound from an 1-8 start to the season to lose just two more game before Friday night.
"Our problem (Friday) night was we watched too many flat balls go by and we chased a few things in the dirt. We did not have a good plan at the plate, did not have good approaches at the plate. But I think (Saturday), you'll see a little bit different situation."
The Saints tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning on Thomas' double, Jack Ferguson's single and a wild pitch.
Jones fifth home of the season, a solo shot to left in the bottom of the seventh inning, accounted for the only run off Roffwarg, who gave up a run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Myers finished with two of the Bulldogs' seven hits with a homer and a double. Connor Jones hit a homer and Logan Jones, Norris, McQueen and Jackson had a single each.
Thomas had a double and single for the Saints and Townes hit two singles. Tolley had the home run, Roffwarg hit a double and Ferguson, Bowman, Ray, DuCote and Carron had a single apiece.