MOUNT CARMEL -- For one final time, Mount Carmel's senior baseball players took the field at Dee White Field in the team's final home game of the regular season and Senior Night.
It was quite an unorthodox final home game, though. The game was a game that was to be resumed against Vincennes Lincoln, which had previously been postponed due to rainfall. Nonetheless, the Aces came prepared, took in the moment and played well.
Mount Carmel lost 5-3 to the Alices, but it was an uphill battle against a quality Big Eight ballclub. Head coach Shea Smith had to be pleased with the sound baseball his team played despite the loss, especially on Senior Night.
The game was picked back up at the point of interruption, with two outs in the bottom of the first with junior Cade Newkirk up and a runner on first and the score 2-1 Vincennes. Newkirk began the evening with a walk, followed by a single off the bat of senior Logan Durham and a RBI walk by junior Adam Stoneberger. Senior Drew Arnott approached the plate with the bases loaded but couldn't capitalize, striking out to end the inning and stranding the three runners.
"We had bases loaded that one inning, that's where we could've done something with it," Smith said. "Overall we played a great game. You never want to lose but you at least want to make the other team earn it, that's what we did."
"Cade did a nice job of being disciplined, not trying to yank anything, not trying to hit it too hard, other guys did a nice job of getting something," Smith said. "Had a couple miscues, but not really mistakes because they earned it. That one on the tag, that kid was going to be there, they earned every bit of it."
Newkirk was the Ace given the nod for the start and appeared to be well in control of his stuff, hurling a quality outing. He began his day with a pair of strikeouts in the second inning, but allowed an RBI in the third inning to put the Alices back ahead 3-2.
In need of his bats to pick him up, the Aces bats came through with a little help by the Alices. The Vincennes center fielder dropped a deep flyball off the bat of sophomore Kaleb Applebey, allowing Applebey to sprint to second and get in scoring position. The Alices suffered dearly for that mistake. Durham stepped to the plate with two out in the inning and knocked in Applebey with an RBI single, knotting the two teams even at 3-3.
Balks have been a thorn in Newkirk's side in a couple of his appearances this season and that happened again in this game. Newkirk balked with runners on the corners in the top half of the fifth, a situation he was in after an error committed by the Aces on an infield hit which couldn't get connected to first for the out, otherwise Newkirk wouldn't have been in the jam. A run scored on the balk, putting the Alices ahead 4-3.
After surrendering a walk in the top of the sixth, Smith elected to pull Newkirk in favor of Durham, who entered with the famed Mariano Rivera's walk-on song, Enter Sandman, playing. That ended Newkirk's day with five innings tossed, five hits, eight strikeouts and three earned runs allowed at that point. Durham allowed a sacrifice fly, which pushed the Alices ahead 5-3, but showcased a nice pickoff move for an out and forced an Alice to groundout to end the inning.
In desperate need of a spark in the final two innings of play, the Aces just couldn't muster any momentum. Vincennes retired the side in the sixth and seventh innings, complimented by a nice diving stop by the center fielder to rob junior Aden Gill of an extra base hit.
Mount Carmel's bats were led by Durham, who posted a 2-for-3 line with an RBI and contributing half of the Aces hits in the game. Smith added that Durham's bat's continuing to heat up, which is a tremendous development for Mount Carmel.
In a weird way, the loss may have been a good thing for the Aces. They faced one of the better Big Eight opponents in the Alices (13-6) and held their own. Their success in this game could bode well for the Aces as postseason play begins.
The Aces (8-10) begin their postseason campaign on Monday (May 13) when they host Hamilton County at 4:30 p.m. Smith expects Durham to take the mound and eyes Newkirk starting Wednesday if the Aces are to emerge victorious. They faced HamCo previously this year, defeating the Foxes 8-7 back on April 13.
"They definitely feel good," Smith spoke of his team's mental state entering the game. "We knew what kind of team they were, they definitely feel pretty good going in. We got Hamilton County on Monday and we go from there."
Smith hopes the Aces can continue to lengthen their season as the postseason goes on, for the sake of the seniors. They've stayed committed to the program and have continued to refine their craft. He feels as if this group is the one to help the Aces breakthrough for a run.
"They've helped out a lot. . . .," Smith spoke of the seniors. "I'd like to do something for them, this is that good group that we hope we can do something with. I think we can."
VL -- 2 0 1 0 1 1 0 -- 5
MC -- 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 -- 3
Mount Carmel notable hitting: Durham 2-for-3, RBI. Stoneberger 0-for-1, BB, RBI.
Aces pitching: LP -- Newkirk 5 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 5 R, 4 ER, 8 K.