Depending on which team you ask, the fourth inning between No. 3-seeded Ascension Catholic and No. 14 Ascension Episcopal was either a blessing or a nightmare.
AES left a pair of runners on base in the top half of the inning after a questionable series of base-running decisions. ACHS, on the other hand, took advantage of four Blue Gators errors in the bottom half of the inning to score five runs on its way to a 6-1 win in the second round of the Class 1A baseball playoffs.
“They made a couple errors that helped us,” ACHS coach Todd Landry said. “But we also swung the bat very well and put the ball in play. I tell the kids all the time, ‘Put the ball in play and good things will happen.’ ”
Both teams were neck and neck through the first three innings Monday, with both sides posting a run in the first inning.
But that’s where AES’ luck ended and the Bulldogs’ luck began.
ACHS pitcher David Girior pitched five shutout innings after allowing a run on a throwing error by right fielder Nick Milano. Girior (5-2) allowed six hits, all singles.
“We took a risk tonight,” Landry said. “Landon (Clifton) is our best pitcher, but we decided to go another way with David Girior. He threw excellent. He gave us six innings of work that were solid.
“That was the game right there to be able to set us up and throw Landon in the quarterfinal. I can’t say enough about the kid. That was enormous.”
But Clifton still found a way for his arm to contribute from his spot in center field.
Clifton sparked the explosive fourth inning when he threw out AES shortstop Tylor Guillot to end the top of the inning after Guillot forgot to tag third on a fly ball to center.
The Bulldogs ace said he was originally trying to throw Guillot out at home, but settled for the momentum-shifting double play that the Blue Gators could never recover from.
He also received a little work on the mound, closing the game by retiring the Blue Gators in order in the seventh inning, including a pair of strikeouts.
“Honestly, I thought I could have gotten (Guillot) at the plate,” Clifton said. “That was big because the next inning we come out swinging the sticks well. The momentum shifted our way. I liked it. It was big.”
AES coach Lonny Landry said the memory of the missed opportunity plagued the defense in the bottom half of the inning to the tune of all five runs going unearned. He also said his team played well in the other six innings of the game with starting pitcher Sean Michael Brady allowing only one run on four hits the rest of the night.
“I thought it was good except for one inning,” Lonny Landry said. “We didn’t take care of the ball that one inning and we had a couple of base running mistakes. That was pretty much the outcome of the game.”
Ascension Catholic advances to take on No. 6 Vermilion Catholic in the quarterfinals.