AAA State Championship: Union Yellow Jackets at St. James Sharks, Game 2


By: Joey Haug – May 18, 2011

-Sharks’ Huge Fifth Inning Forces Game Three in AAA Championship-

Wednesday gave us a beautiful evening for baseball in the Grand Strand, and there was definitely a championship atmosphere at St. James High School as the host Sharks looked to stave off elimination against the visiting Union Yellow Jackets. There was great energy on the field, and some chippiness in the stands between the zealous fans. St. James sent ace Gunnar Kines to the hill, while Dylan Rogers toed the rubber for Union. The game featured four lead changes, and a big inning that extends the AAA baseball season one more game.

Union struck first, going up 1-0 in the top of the first when leadoff man Jake Walton homered to dead centerfield, bringing the Jackets’ fans (who traveled in full force) to their feet. After allowing a single and a walk, Kines got out of the jam and avoided further damage to end the top half.

St. James would answer right back in the bottom of the frame. Anthony Cossentino got things rolling with a double to right-centerfield. Gunnar Heidt then lined a single back through the box, almost hitting Cossentino on its way through and forcing the second baseman to stop at third. Heidt stole second putting two in scoring position for Robert Troiano who grounded a ball to second base. The ball took a squirrely hop for Walton and skipped off the heel of his glove into rightfield, allowing both runners to come around to score and making it 2-1 St. James after one inning.

Both pitchers appeared to settle in after the rocky first, exchanging scoreless innings in the second and third before Union re-took the lead in the top of the fourth.

Antonio Wallace singled to open the frame, and Adam Lawson followed with a walk to put two on with nobody out for the Jackets. A double steal with an errant throw to third allowed Wallace to come in to score and brought Lawson into scoring position. Cal Arnold gave Union the lead when he followed with an RBI single, making it 3-2. A big shutdown inning by Rogers followed, and Union took momentum going into the top of the fifth looking to extend their lead.

Walton singled to start things off, then stole second. After two quick outs, Wallace grounded a ball to the six-hole that Heidt was able to get a glove on. After bobbling the ball with no play at first, Heidt flipped to third looking to catch Walton rounding the bag too hard. The throw got past Preston Lane, allowing Wallace to reach second and putting two men in scoring position for Lawson. Lawson smoked a short-hopped line drive right back at Kines, he was able to make a great play on and snagged the would-be two-run single, flipping to first for the final out.

After making the nifty play to end the top half, Kines led off the bottom of the fifth with a backside double. Marshall McClary then laid down a textbook push bunt, reaching to put runners on the corners for Tanner English. English got his hands inside a fastball and deposited it over the left-centerfield fence, bringing the Sharks fans to their feet and giving St. James a 5-3 lead. Cossentino followed with a walk, and with one away, he and Troiano executed a hit-and-run, putting runners on first and third for Lane, who doinked a check-swing infield hit to score Cossentino. With runners on first and second, Carl Buddin came in to pinch-hit and reached on an error, plating a run and putting runners on second and third for Hugh Benton, who rounded out the scoring in the inning with a two-run single. By the time the final out in the fifth was recorded, St. James had taken a commanding 9-3 lead.

After a shutdown inning by Kines, St. James tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth when English walked, moved to third on another perfect hit-and-run (with Cossentino), and scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Heidt.

Final: St. James 10, Union 3  WP: Gunnar Kines  LP: Dylan Rogers  HR: Jake Walton (U), Tanner English (STJ)

*With each team winning their home game, they will play the third and deciding game on Saturday at 2PM at Riley Park in Sumter. Probable starters are Josh Simpson and Anthony Cossentino, with everyone else who can lift their respective arms available in the pen in this winner-take-all showdown.*

-Prospect Info: St. James Sharks-

cossentinoa-head09.jpgAnthony Cossentino-Senior, INF/P, USC Sumter signee: Cossentino was his usual sparkplug self tonight, getting the Sharks’ first hit (a double) and plating their first run. He was on base all four times he came to the plate, collecting two hits, a walk, and reaching on an error. Cossentino also scored two runs. He is a scrappy player who finds ways to put his team in position to win in tangible and intangible ways. Though he didn’t get much action defensively tonight, he is solid there as well.

englisht-throwing11.jpgTanner English-Senior, OF, USC signee: DP’s Barry Mabry wrote in his last write-up about English’s propensity to come up big in big-time situations. He did just that tonight. With his team down a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, English got a fastball in, pulled his hands inside the ball, and drove it out of the park to give St. James a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. He roamed all over centerfield and almost brought back Walton’s homer in the first. English uses his speed well defensively and on the basepaths, scoring runs both times he reached base. He’s got plus bat speed as well and will have a tough decision ahead of him in a few weeks.

Gunnar Heidt-Senior, SS, College of Charleston signee: Heidt collected two hits, an RBI, heidtg-ss09.jpgand a run scored tonight for St. James out his customary three-hole slot. Like his middle infield mate Cossentino, it was a relatively quiet night defensively for Heidt. When I first saw Heidt play a few years ago I thought he’d be a very good second baseman at the next level but was unsure if he could stick at shortstop, especially at the Division I level. Every time I’ve seen him since he’s changed my mind more and more. I am now convinced he can be a plus defender at short and a plus-plus second baseman, which is where he may play when he gets to pro ball (which, barring injury, is only a matter of time).

kinesgunnar-sign11.jpgGunnar Kines-Senior, LHP, Florence-Darlington Tech signee: Kines’ velocity was right where it’s been in previous viewings, sitting in the 80-83 range and bumping 85 a couple times. Early, Kines battled without his typical good command of his secondary pitches but as the game progressed he found the zone with them, especially his change. The pitch came in at 71-73 and he found his feel for it late in the game, using it with his fastball to stay between the Jackets’ bat speed. The curve was 65-69 and better than I’ve seen it in the past, but still needs to be in the zone consistently for Kines to be an impact starter at the next level.

Notable: Robert Troiano (Senior, C)

-Prospect Info: Union Yellowjackets-

Dylan Rogers-Junior, RHP: With Rogers’ shaggy hair and struggling mustache, he looks almost identical to former Gonzaga basketball star Adam Morrison. I was more impressed with his pitching than his facial hair. Rogers comes from a low three-quarters arm slot and his velocity was 84-86 early. He also showed a slider that was up to 76 early but fell off to 71-73 later in his outing. Rogers was effective until the fifth, when his velocity dropped to 81-83 and the Sharks started sitting on the slider. He’s got some room to grow and with hard work in the weight room and with a long-toss regiment, could make a jump for his senior year.

waltonjake-stance11.jpgJake Walton-Junior, INF: For the second straight game, Walton started things off with a bang for the Jackets. This time however, his ball carried over the fence for a leadoff homer. The lefthanded-hitting second baseman also had a single and a stolen base, doing his part atop the Union lineup. Walton has average speed (4.48 home-first) and had a rough day defensively, but the bat plays.

duckettbrett-stance11.jpgBrett Duckett-Senior, C, USC Upstate signee: Duckett’s definitely a candidate for the All-Uni team. The guy definitely looks the part when you see him step off the bus, and he produced two singles and a walk once the game got underway. He was a 2.05 between innings and showed an above average arm behind the dish. Upstate got a guy with a lot of upside here.