FRANKLINTON — Despite having an undefeated Tyler Ezell on the mound, the nerves may have gotten the best of the St. Michael’s Warriors in the first two innings.
The hole the sixth-seeded Warriors dug themselves early on proved to be too much to dig out from.
St. Michael’s fell to third-seeded Franklinton 8-1 in the first game of a Class 4A best-of-three series state quarterfinal Friday afternoon.
The Warriors (21-10) must win two games Saturday if they want to advance to the state tournament next weekend in Sulphur. Game 2 is set for 1 p.m.
“This is new territory for everybody with the best-of-three format in the quarterfinal round,” Warriors coach Johnny Bernhard said. “We handled it well in the second round sweeping both games. But it is a different challenge, particularly when you are on the road.
“Plus, you are taking on a team in Franklinton who is extremely talented across the board.”
Josh Magee led off the bottom of the first inning for the Demons (22-4) with a walk. After stealing second base, he advanced to third on a single by Morgan Angelo. Magee scored on a fielder’s choice by C.J. Estave. Running for Estave, courtesy runner Trevor Davis scored on an RBI double by Landon Magee to extend the lead to 2-0.
Angelo got in on the fun with an RBI single in the second inning. Franklinton added an unearned run thanks to a St. Michael’s error, extending the lead to 4-0.
“(The Demons) came out and played very well early in the game,” Bernhard said. “We didn’t respond as well as we needed to some adversity. Their pitcher really kept us off balance throughout the game.”
Franklinton knocked out Warriors starter Tyler Ezell (8-1) after only two innings. Suffering his first loss of the year on the mound, Ezell allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, striking out one and walking one.
Given a 5-0 lead after the first three innings, junior right-hander Mack McElveen was equally as impressive on the mound.
Picking up the complete-game win, McElveen allowed one run on two hits, struck out four and walked six.
A turning point came in the fourth, when St. Michael loaded the bases with no outs. After McElveen gave up a run on a walk, he forced a pop-out and struck out two to end the Warriors best threat.
“It was our best threat throughout the game,” Bernhard said. “But you can’t take two called strikes like we did to finish the inning. I hope our kids learn from this and learn quickly. We will find out tomorrow if it is too late to learn that lesson.
“We have to come out and play really good baseball in game two. If we are fortunate enough then we will see about game three, but we have to come out and focus on game two.”