The Flood Auto Connie Mack team ended its regular season on a high note, but any momentum built up didn’t seem to carry over when the postseason began on Sunday.
Playing Blackstone on the road in the first game of a best-of-three Round of 16 series, Flood fell behind 4-0 in the first inning and never recovered, losing 7-2.
Flood had won four of its last five entering the playoffs, yet it hadn’t played Blackstone all season long.
It was clear that Blackstone presented a different challenge.
“We came in a little timid,” said Flood manager Brian Leahey. “They saw the other kids, probably older. Nerves got to them.”
The second game of the series was scheduled for Monday at Bishop Hendricken, with results unavailable at press time. If a third game is necessary, it would be played today at Blackstone.
Blackstone went 11-3 during the regular season, the second-best record in the state, in the Northwest Division, while Flood finished at 9-6 in the Southeast Division, and early on, the teams seemed even further apart.
While Flood had its chances to come back in the game, as it chipped away with a pair of runs late, it managed just six hits on the day against Ian Pascoe, and it was held without a base runner through the first 3.2 innings before Brendan Conley finally broke up the perfect game with a single in the fourth.
Blackstone, meanwhile, Linden Padien got the start on the mound for Flood and didn’t survive the first inning, as he was relieved by Alex Hernandez after four runs had come across.
Blackstone’s leadoff man walked, and after an out Blackstone recorded three straight hits, capped off with a three-run home run off the bat of Devin Beroth that was the key blow.
In the second inning, Blackstone grabbed two more runs, putting Flood in an immediate 6-0 hole.
“We’re really relying on the leadership of some older kids right now for these younger guys,” Leahey said.
At the plate, Flood struggled to solve Pascoe, as he made it through the first four innings scoreless until Flood seemed to wake up a little too late.
In the fifth, after the first two men were retired, Flood’s Andrew Hopgood singled, and Brian Cipolla brought him home with a double to left field, getting Flood on the board.
“Once we started figuring out that, ‘Hey, we can still win this game,’ that’s when things started turning,” Leahey said. “The kids fought all the way through.”
Caleb Wurster took the mound for Flood in the fourth inning and kept Blackstone from extending its lead with two innings of hitless ball, and Flood made a little more noise in the sixth inning.
Again, the first two men were retired, but Conley – the only Flood player with multiple hits in the game – singled and Colin McBride scored him with a double to left. An infield single by Will Alfred put two runners on with two outs, bringing Matt Sweeney to the plate.
Sweeney hit a shot to center field that was easily the furthest ball hit all day by a Flood player, but Beroth got a good beat on it and made a running catch near the fence, saving two runs and ending the inning.
“He’s been one of our go-to guys with the bat lately,” said Leahey. “He’s a good player, so we’re counting on him to be that catalyst that we need. Bounces here or there could go any which way.”
That catch took the wind out of the sails for Flood, which saw Blackstone grab a seventh run in the sixth inning before going down in order in the seventh.
Pascoe threw a complete game to earn the win while striking out four.
Yet, with the way Flood played from the fourth inning on, Leahey sees reason for optimism going forward.
It wasn’t the ideal start to the postseason, but Flood isn’t out of it after just one game.
“After seeing how they settled down today, I feel confident,” Leahey said. “They’re ready to go. They’re already talking about, ‘Wait until tomorrow.’”