CARMI -- Mount Carmel head baseball coach Shea Smith has repeatedly said this Aces group is one that has high expectations and is capable of quality play in the postseason. The Aces followed suit with that and advanced to the Regional Championship on Saturday against Fairfield.
Having lost to the Mules 8-1 earlier this season, they knew they were in for an uphill battle if they were to claim the title. The Aces kept it close for much of the game in the second go around with the Mules, but a late offensive outburst propelled the Mules to a 14-4 victory over the Aces.
Senior Logan Durham took the mound for the Aces and ran into some trouble in the first inning. The Mules tagged Durham for three runs in the bottom of the first, following the Aces scoring one run in the top of the first, with the score sitting at 3-1 after one frame of play.
Mount Carmel backed up their senior starter, providing two runs in the top of the third to tie the game at 3-3. The Mules scored a run to reclaim the lead at 4-3.
In what had been a back and forth affair, Mount Carmel continued that trend, tying the game at 4-4 in the top of the fourth, but Fairfield scored nine runs in the bottom of the fourth to bust the game wide open and eventually run rule the Aces.
Smith's squad was left shorthanded in their lineup after junior Cade Newkirk exited with a knee injury in Thursday's Regional Semifinal, depleting the Aces' depth for pitching and their bats -- though it likely didn't make a difference in this one. Junior Connor Lane played in Newkirk's absence and had a solid day at the plate, posting a 1-for-2 clip with a double and an RBI.
Durham's day and career as an Ace ended with 3 2-3 innings of 11-hit, 13 runs, though just four were earned. He also fanned three batters in the outing. The nine unearned runs were a result of four Aces errors. Pitching wise Durham concludes his senior campaign with a 4-2 record and a 2.10 ERA in 46 2-3 innings of work this season. He posted team-highs in wins, ERA and innings pitched for the Aces.
"Logan Durham stepped up big for us this year, replacing a lot of the innings pitching that we were unsure how it would be filled." Smith spoke of Durham.
The Aces bats were led by Durham and Doan. Durham went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI, whereas Doan went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI. Doan concludes his senior campaign with a .338 batting clip with 19 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Durham was hitting exceptionally well late in the season and improved his clip to a .309 mark with eight RBIs and 10 runs scored.
Smith's message to his team all season long -- regarding the high expectations -- he says was one that he challenged his group to early on -- putting Aces baseball back on the map.
"Early on I challenged this team to be the reason Golden Aces baseball was back," Smith said. "With all the experience coming back from last year we had a lot of confidence."
Though their season has now concluded, Smith wants the same hunger this group had to carry over to next year's team and what will be that group of seniors now guiding the way, following the graduation of a quality group of seniors.
"This senior group is going to very missed going forward, but we have a good group of kids back next year that should be hungry and ready to take even more steps forward." Smith said.
The seniors who'll be sorely missed include Doan, Durham, Ashton Walker and Drew Arnott. They provided quality leadership and led by example, hopefully next year the seniors can do the same and who knows, possibly take the next step and claim the illustrious Regional Championship.
MC -- 1 0 2 1 0 X X -- 4
F -- 3 0 1 9 1 X X -- 14
Mount Carmel notable hitting: Durham 2-for-3, 2B, R, RBI. Doan 2-for-2, RBI, 2 R. Lane 1-for-2, 2B, RBI. Arnott 0-for-3, RBI.
Aces pitching: LP -- Durham (4-2) 3 2-3 IP, 11 H, 13 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.