Alphin's arm muzzles Colts in semis

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2009 Sixth Region Baseball Tournament

By Mike Farner

LOUISVILLE - Bullitt East junior Brandon Alphin had the arm and that was more than enough for the Chargers on Wednesday as they cruised past DeSales 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Sixth Region Baseball Tournament at the University of Louisville’s Jim Patterson Stadium.

Alphin had some of his best stuff of the season as he was perfect through the first four innings against the 22nd District champions. He did walk three batters in the fifth inning to allow the one run to score, but the Colts’ only two hits in the game came in the sixth inning.

Alphin was the winning pitcher for Bullitt East in the semi-finals a year earlier against Butler.

Still, as it often does with the Chargers, the top of the pitching rotation is not set in stone. Alphin and fellow junior Matt Bowles have shared the spotlight the past two seasons.

Alphin didn’t find out until the previous night that he would get the ball against the Colts.

“After practice I asked (assistant) coach (Craig) Sharpe and he said they were still talking about it,” Alphin said. “Then I texted Matt and he asked his dad and the word came back that it was me.”

The junior admitted that he didn’t politic much to get the ball in a possible championship game a night later.

“I didn’t really do that,” Alphin said. “I just let things fall into place.”

Alphin finished with nine strike-outs, but six of those came over the first three innings. He did walk four and the Chargers did make two errors including one on Alphin.

In the fifth inning, DeSales’ first base runner of the game was Doug Crawford who walked. He then stole second and moved up again on a sacrifice bunt. After a strike-out, Devin Luckett walked to put runners on the corners with two outs.

Alphin had Luckett fooled and the runner broke for second while the pitcher still held the ball. Alphin spun around, but his throw to second was high as Luckett collided with second baseman Jimmy Hoffman. The ball went into the outfield, allowing Crawford to score.

DeSales did open the sixth with a single by Jake Gregory but he was gunned down by catcher Cory Johnson trying to steal second. Zane Wheatley had a two-out double later in the inning, but could not advance.

Still, Bullitt East was up 5-0 by the time DeSales got a base runner.

With one out in the third, the Chargers got the first run when Matt Bowles tripled and then walked home on a balk call on starting pitcher John Sohl. Hoffman followed with a double and he raced all the way home on Alphin’s ground-out to the shortstop.

In the fourth, Justin Jones reached on an error, the first of four DeSales’ miscues in the inning. Josh Whitmer then bunted the ball to the right of Sohl, but his throw was wild to first, leaving runners on second and third.

The first run of the inning then scored on Robby Gibson’s single. Whitmer was on third and when the DeSales’ catcher made a wild pick-off attempt, Whitmer darted home for a run. Gibson later scored on Tyler Downs’ sacrifice fly.

After the Colts pulled within 5-1, Bullitt East tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth. Cory Johnson singled and then Downs bunted for a single. After the Chargers loaded the bases when Bowles walked, courtesy runner Shane Valentine came home on Hoffman’s sacrifice fly.

There really was no Bullitt East celebration after the game. That is because the team expected to reach the regional final when the season began.

“We expect to win,” Downs pointed out. “They tell us to act like we expect it. We’re still looking to get further along.”

“You don’t know it will happen, but you expect it too,” Bullitt East head coach Jeff Bowles said. “We really want to get over the hump. Now we’re expecting to win in the post-season. I like where we are right now.”

Alphin’s performance made it easy on the coach.

“It’s pretty warm out there,” the coach said. “It’s hotter on the turf. He came into the season off basketball so he was fine. He had some giddy-up on his fast ball.”

Was it the junior’s best pitching effort of the season?

“Maybe except for the Male game,” Bowles said of a 2-1 Bullitt East win. “His pitching early told them that they were in for an uphill struggle.”

Bullitt East had defeated DeSales 15-12 early in the season.

The Chargers didn’t expect another game like that.

“Brandon’s been pretty good,” Downs said. “I thought we might have a little more, but that’s fine.”

"That was a situation where they threw six pitchers and we went with four,” Bowles pointed out. “I didn’t expect that to happen again. I’m happy with 6-1 and Brandon didn’t even had a hit.”

Bullitt East finished with seven hits in the game. Two of those were by Hoffman who had a triple and a double. Bowles also had a triple and each of the bottom three hitters in the Bullitt East line-up had one single.