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St. John Crusaders fall to Avalon

With a first-round bye locked up, St. John competed against the Avalon Eagles Friday afternoon as a playoff warm-up game for both teams.
Even though Avalon walked off the field with a 15-5 win, the Crusaders (6-7-1) felt as if they beat themselves and now know what they have to correct before the playoffs.
With senior Corey Mikula making only his second start on the mound for the Crusaders, the first inning immediately got out of hand with Avalon taking a 6-0 lead in part due to a two-run homer. Even though some STJ fans were looking groggy, as if they needed someone to put on a banana suit with maracas and yell, “It’s peanut butter and jelly time!” the Crusaders refused to give up. As quickly as St. John loaded the bases with one out, it cleared them as well. With the bags packed, Thomas Miller hit a standup triple over the center fielder’s head to make the game 6-3.
In the second inning, with Avalon only producing one more run to give it a 7-3 lead, St. John missed its chance to cut into the deficit, going three up and three down.
Avalon came out swinging in the third, producing five runs on two errors and seven hits. The Crusaders’ only hit in the bottom of the third was a single from Jake Howard, which left the score at 12-3.
With Miller subbing in for Mikula, St. John hoped to steal the momentum away. After two hits and a two-RBI double from Avalon early in the fourth inning, shortstop Mikula and second baseman Ryan Almand decided to step up their defense.
The next batter hit the ball into an infield gap that looked as if even Ian Kinsler couldn’t snag it, but Almand laid out and made a beautiful backhanded play to throw the runner out at first. Just as impressively, the next batter drove a ball at Mikula, who caught it and quickly threw to second for a double play to keep the score at 14-3. But, even with excitement and a dash of momentum on their side, the Crusaders once again failed to get a hit.
Needing three consecutive outs from Avalon and at least one run to keep St. John from being run ruled, the Eagles produced only one run, in part because center fielder B.J O’Daniel showed off his lightning speed with two fielded flyouts, one being a tough catch that involved running into the fence. Almond and Mikula once again stepped up in the bottom of the fifth, producing an RBI single to keep the Crusaders on the field for the time being at 15-5.
Although down nine runs, coach Larry Zmolik had one more trick left in the bag, subbing out Miller for his ace, Howard. The senior pitched exactly how everyone knew he could, producing two strikeouts and forcing a groundout. Needing one run to once again keep the game alive, St. John failed to produce as it ended on a run-rule.
Even though a ten-run loss would break most teams’ confidence, Zmolik and the Crusaders didn’t seem affected by it at all.
“We knew we were playing a great team today,” Zmolik said.
“Even though they played good ball like we knew they would, we came up with way too many errors to win against anyone. We hit good in some innings and pitched good in some innings. We really just need to work on our consistency for the playoffs.”
The Crusaders open up the playoffs against three-time consecutive state champs Huntsville Alpha-Omega on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at home. Against the team who knocked them out of the final four last year, not only will consistency be a key element, but maybe revenge as well.

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Posted by on Apr 30 2007. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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