Bishop England didn’t invent small ball, but they have certainly refined it.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning of Wednesday night’s Class AA playoff baseball game against Silver Bluff, the Bishops went to work. Jonathan Browning reached on an infield single, advanced two bases on a wild pickoff throw and scored later on a wild pitch. The small-ball attack propelled the Bishops to a 4-1 victory at Father Kelly Field.
“That’s the way I like to coach,” Bishop England coach Mike Darnell said. “I’m a National League guy. I grew up watching the Braves and Cubs. Small ball doesn’t always work. I’m disappointed at times by the way we bunt, but we get a tweener here, a stolen base there and walks, and we score runs. That’s the way everyone plays since they changed the bats a couple of years ago.”
The Bishops, who won for the 19th time in their last 23 games, earned state titles in the odd calendar years since 2003, and took a big step toward their sixth state title in the last 11 years.
The game was a rematch of Saturday’s second-round game when the Bishops posted a 4-0 victory. Patrick Clarey followed up a five-hitter with a six-hitter.
The Bulldogs scored an unearned run in the first inning, the only run Bishops pitchers have allowed in three playoff games.
Silver Bluff’s Darius ashington, a hard throwing right-hander, gave up nine hits and was the victim of three errors. He’s one of the top junior pitchers in the state and his fastball was topping out in the upper 80s.
The Bishops pushed the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third when Cameron Garrett singled and eventually scored on Tradd Lowman’s sacrifice fly.
Browning and Harrison Boals added RBI singles in the bottom of the fourth to push the lead to 4-1 and that was more than enough for Clarey.
Silver Bluff threatened in the top of the sixth with runners on second and third and one out, but Clarey struck out shortstop Nick Champy and induced Jalen Jackson to fly to right to get out of the jam.
“Patrick did a good job of getting out of jams he and we created,” Darnell said. “He managed to make quality pitches when he got behind in the count.”
Bishop England hosts Woodland at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Silver Bluff 100 000 0—1 6 3
Bishop England 101 200 x—4 9 2
WP—Clarey. LP—Washington. Next: BE hosts Woodland at 1 p.m. Saturday.