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Flyers punch ticket to final in thrilling win over Big Red

By JAKE FURR Reflector Sports Editor jakefurr@norwalkreflector.com • May 17, 2017 at 9:15 PM

GALION — If St. Paul coach Jim Carper had any black hairs left, they are all grey after Wednesday night’s thriller in Galion.

The St. Paul Flyers used a 3-run seventh inning to stun the Plymouth Big Red 5-4 in the Division IV district semifinal. 

Heading into the top of the seventh trailing 3-2, the first two St. Paul Flyers were retired and it look like the season was over for Carper’s club. Kurt Maxwell got the rally started by being hit by a pitch and Luke Carper drew a 2-out walk to give the Flyers some life. Colton Service stepped to the dish and ripped his second triple of the contest bringing in Maxwell and Carper and giving the Flyers the lead for the first time in the ballgame. 

For good measure, the Flyers added another on an RBI single by Brandon Saldusky, and they needed it. In the bottom of the seventh, the Big Red tried to play spoiler as Mitchell Chaffins started the inning off with a single. After a batter was retired, Jarrett Miller added a single to give the Big Red two on with one out. AJ Hamman delivered an RBI single to make it 5-4 St. Paul with two out and a runner on first and third. But St. Paul pitcher Nick Lukasko recorded a backwards-K to end the ballgame.

“I was anxious,” Carper said. “I know what kind of team we have. Last night, we played horrible. I told them after the game to just forget about it and to come out today, have fun and play baseball like they know how and they did that tonight.”

The Flyers came off of a heart-breaking 13-12 loss to Crestview on Tuesday night that forced the Flyers to share the Firelands Conference championship with New London in what was called one of the worst defensive performances of the season for the Flyers.

“It was a wake-up call that we needed to be at the top of our game this late in the season,” Service said. “We need to be ready for anything and if we relaxed a little bit, it can come back to bite us.”

The Flyers have made it a habit of the late inning dramatics and Wednesday was no different. Carper let the Flyers play for six innings, but changed it up before the seventh.

“We had a huddle for the first time all game before the seventh,” Carper said. “This has been our M.O. all year and we had the top of the order up and we knew if anything was going to happen it was now. We either go out there and play or go home.”

Service led the way at the plate with two triples, three RBI and two runs scored as he had a hand in all five of the Flyers runs. It was his big 2-out, 2-RBI triple that gave the Flyers the lead in the seventh.

“I had a rough night last night so I just did a lot of thinking and it really relaxed me,” Service said. “I came at it as it was a new day and I wanted to have a short memory. It is what you need in baseball. I just wanted to play for each moment.

“I wanted to come up with a clear mind. If I went up there thinking about everything, it can hurt more than it can help so I just stayed relaxed and put a good swing on it.”

Saldusky had a pair of hits while Maxwell added the other for the Flyers. Nick Lukasko took the win on the mound going the distance allowing four runs on 10 hits and striking out five.

“They had some key guys put up some key at bats,” Plymouth coach Jason Higgins said. “That team has been doing that all year. They refuse to accept losing and it is very hard to beat a team that does not accept losing. They do it in every sport. I told our guys that we have to get tired of that stuff happening to us before we can overcome it.”

The Big Red collected 10 hits altogether. Austin Nester led the Big Red off with a solo home run in the bottom of the first to grab an early 1-0 lead. The Big Red pushed it to 2-0 in the third after Chaffins started things off with a walk and was driven in by an RBI single from Jarrett Miller. The Big Red put up another run in the sixth after Hamman doubles to start the inning and was driven in by Anthony Montgomery’s fielder’s choice. 

Hamman finished with two hits and an RBI while Miller also collected two hits and an RBI. Seth Bailey and Logan Myers added a pair of hits each. Walker Elliott rounded out the offense with a hit.

The Big Red end the season with a 19-7 record on the year and say goodbye to three seniors, Chaffins, Nester and Myers.

“I gave each of them a handshake and a big hug,” Higgins said. “They have put a ton of time into this program and we wouldn’t be where we are right now if those guys wouldn’t have made sacrifices and worked as hard as they did. They became leaders and shaped the younger players into a team that reached the district semifinals when no one expected us to be here.”

The Flyers take on a familiar foe in the New London Wildcats who beat Wynford 3-1 in the first game of the Division IV district on Wednesday. The Flyers and Wildcats split the season series as well as the Firelands Conference championship, but first thing is first for Carper.

“I am looking forward to going home and getting some sleep,” Carper said with a laugh. “I am going to just keep letting these boys do what they do. What happens, happens. I couldn’t be prouder of this group of young men.”

 

Twitter: @JakeFurr11

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