The minute The Dunham School’s Ryan May, pitching with a five-run lead, plunked Episcopal’s lead-off batter in the sixth inning Tigers coach Joey Thibodeaux’s mind started to race.
Despite a pitch count nearing triple digits, May convinced Thibodeaux during a visit to the mound to leave him in and the senior right-hander rewarded that confidence with five strikeouts in the next six batters, punctuating the Tigers 7-1 victory Thursday in the District 7-2A finale for both.
“I kind of questioned whether I should leave him in or not,” Thibodeaux said. “He wanted it, so I said make it quick and he did.”
May’s complete game included five hits, eight strikeouts and three walks was part of the solution to Dunham (20-10, 6-4 in 7-2A) finding some answers going into next week’s state playoffs.
The Tigers, who will learn their opponent Tuesday, had dropped three of their last five games — a span that included a 3-1 home setback Tuesday to Episcopal.
Thibodeaux identified his team’s inability to deliver hits at key times as the main culprit, stranding 43 baserunners in the last four games.
Catcher Kyle Duhe went 3-for-4 with a double and RBI to trigger Dunham’s 11-hit output. Third baseman Tyler Thompson (2-4) had a double and two RBIs and shortstop Ben McClelland (2-4) added a double and RBI.
“Our defense and our pitching have been our strong suit,” Thibodeaux said. “We’re a good hitting team. I’ve never seen anything like it before where we’ve left so many men on base. We worked on that this week, trying to put the ball in play, and we were a little better tonight.”
Dunham’s balance was too much for surging Episcopal (11-16, 7-3), which had its eight-game win streak snapped.
“On an eight-game win streak, you can’t have it go all your way,” Episcopal baseball coach Dan Canevari said. “Hopefully we’ll get it back on track. I don’t think the kids lost their confidence. We just didn’t play a good ballgame today. We didn’t get the breaks, but we made a nice run and now we’re looking forward to the playoffs and making a run.”
Episcopal took a 1-0 lead and threatened for more against May (6-1) in the bottom of the second inning.
The Knights put together four consecutive singles without an out capped by right fielder Scott Fosse’s run-scoring single to center field to score Christopher Beckman.
Following a strikeout, May got Brennan Folse to fly out to right, where Patrick Ivey recorded the second out, hit cut-off man Chase Day whose relay to Duhe at the plate was perfect to get Wayne Stabiler for an inning-ending double play.
McClelland turned a 6-3 double play to end the fourth and Duhe picked off a runner at second base for the final out of the fifth.
Dunham, which stranded four runners through two innings and 11 overall, tied the game at 1-all in the third on Thompson’s two-out single before the Tigers added a pair of two-out, unearned runs in the fourth with Duhe’s RBI single making it 3-1.
Episcopal senior left-hander Patrick Stone was lifted after that inning in favor of Turner Graham. He allowed eight hits, three runs (one earned), one walk and fanned three.
Dunham padded its lead with three runs that were courtesy of McClelland’s RBI-single and Thompson’s two-run single to left through a drawn-in infield .
“We’re hopefully getting better at the right time,” Thibodeaux said. “I think we’ve got a team that can make some noise in the playoffs so maybe we’ll do that.”
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