The quarterfinals is best two out of three, forcing a third game Friday night.
Autumn Allison/USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee
Maybe it was ace pitching at the close or maybe Pope John Paul’s bench’s efforts to “lock-down the force” that pushed the Knights to finding truth in the phrase third times the charm.
On Thursday, Pope John Paul found its first playoff victory against Christian Brothers in the last four years after Christian Brothers has knocked the Knights out of the DI-AA state playoffs the past two years.
“I think we proved that (we could beat them) in March, when we beat them at their home turf,” said JPII coach Chris Parker. “We just came out today and battled.”
Pope John Paul finished the first of two games on Thursday night 2-1 for the win that broke the streak. However, Pope John Paul’s luck ran out for the follow up game when Christian Brothers came out hot and scored all 6 of its runs in the first two innings to split the series, forcing a game three to decide the DI-AA quarterfinals.
“Christian Brothers has a wall painted of championships. They aren’t going to roll over,” said Parker.
Ace pitcher Mason Hickman, a Vanderbilt signee, was able to maintain control for most of the first game but lacked the strikeouts that would have made it an easier outing. He found his groove in the final two innings, completely shutting down Christian Brothers.
“Somehow he reached down deep enough to find something to shut it down in the sixth and seventh,” Parker said.
Offensively, the team struggled to match efforts until the fifth inning when Pope John Paul scored both of its runs, during the time that the bench cried out chants of “moving the force” and added accompanying hand movements to seal the deal.
“I just think Ben Brooks’ double lit a fire under us. It brought a whole new energy to the dugout,” said Hickman. “ … That’s kind of what we were missing that second game. We came out flat.”
Reach Autumn Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @Aallison25.