Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2011



LAPLACE – It was a game every bit as eventful as its score would indicate. Even more so, in fact.

Indeed, when Shane McNeil launched a rocket of a home run shot to left in the bottom of the fifth inning, it capped off a 24-14 St. Charles win over district rival John Curtis, avenging a 12-9 loss only two days earlier.

But a lot happened from the first pitch to the last in this wild affair.

The Comets clinched the outright District 9-2A championship in a game that seemingly couldn’t have started worse – then couldn’t have gone any better. Curtis loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning, but starter Jared Keating would strike out the next six batters.

The first 10 Comet batters of the game would reach base at SCC scored 11 runs in the first inning – including three home runs, and one grand slam.

Brady Hitt slammed two home runs, collected six RBIs and achieved a historic milestone – his solo home run to lead off the fourth inning was his 14th this year and broke the St. Charles school record for home runs in a single season.

The team hit five home runs in all, including the last, one that McNeil knocked over the fence to lead off the bottom of the fifth. That one gave SCC a 10-run-rule win – and it also netted McNeil the cycle, as he tripled, doubled and singled earlier in the day.

“We just came out fired up,” said McNeil. “We knew they beat us Tuesday. We came out swinging it well … (on the last at-bat) I was more mad than anything that we didn’t finish it in the top half. I could relax again when I hit it.”

Fourteen different St. Charles (24-8, 7-1) batters either reached base or knocked in a run.

“We had tremendous team at-bats today,” said St. Charles coach Paul Waguespack. “Guys were looking to move the runners, to take a walk, to keep an inning alive. I thought that more than anything was key today.”

Hitt, who entered the game hitting .567 and has collected over 50 RBIs already, said that home run record hadn’t quite registered with him yet.

“It hasn’t hit me,” said Hitt. “Maybe in a couple of days I’ll wake up and it will, but right now I’m still kind of in shock.”

Said Waguespack, “He’s in a zone like I haven’t seen. He’s just having a phenomenal year, and we’re really riding him right now.”

David Warren walked to lead off the game for Curtis (12-13, 5-3), and then speedy Josh Hanberry reached on a fielding error on a bunt. Brandon Bourgeois walked to load the bases. But Keating composed himself and struck out the next three Curtis batters, in the process pumping himself — and his team — up.

That’s when the floodgates opened for the SCC offense. Jeffrey Hall walked, Donnie Savoie singled and Keating was hit by a Bourgeois pitch. Hitt laced a single to make it 1-0, though the Comets recorded their first out on a baserunning mistake.

It didn’t slow them down. McNeil doubled home two more runs to make it 3-0. Then Macky Cortez singled up the middle, pushing the lead to 4-0. Chad McNeil hammered the first home run of the day, a towering shot to left that made it 6-0. Austin Ourso walked, Luke Poche singled and Hall walked to load the bases, and Ourso scored on a passed ball to make it 7-0. Keating walked to load them up again for Hitt, who blasted his 13th home run of the year for a grand slam to make it 11-0.

“We always talk about how hitting is contagious,” said Hitt. “One person starts swinging it well and the next thing you know everyone is doing the same.”

Keating struck out the side in order in the second inning, and the Comets came back to score four more runs in the bottom half. Chad McNeil and Ourso each walked with one out, then Poche singled home a run to make it 12-0. Hall came up next and hit the third home run of the day, a 3-run shot that made it 15-0.

With SCC’s lead seemingly secure, Keating left the game. The Patriots started to get going, scoring seven runs in the third inning including two-RBI doubles by Dillon Gordon and Britt Salomon.

Curtis never got closer, though, as SCC just kept hitting. Ourso collected two RBIs in the third on a single and an error led to another run to make it 18-7.

Hitt’s home run led off the fourth. LaJaylin Smith knocked in a run, Chris Millet hit an RBI single and Nick Montegut hit a two-RBI triple to make it 23-7.

The Patriots scored seven more in the fourth to stave off the 10-run-rule temporarily. But McNeil ended things with one swing, and in the process officially clinched the district championship for his team.

“It’s a big accomplishment, but we remember last year,” said Shane McNeil. “We won district then, but didn’t get to where we wanted to be in the playoffs. (District) is a goal, but it’s not our main goal, and that’s to win state.”

Waguespack acknowledged that leaving Keating in could have kept the Curtis bats from getting loose, but that the big lead presented an opportunity to have Keating and others available for Friday’s game against the Patriots.

“I want to win them all,” said Waguespack. “It’ll be our fourth game in four days, and we were able to save some arms.”

SCC 8, DUNHAM 7 – Shane McNeil’s two-RBI double and Macky Cortez’s RBI single gave SCC an 8-5 seventh inning lead, and the Comets held on in the bottom half to secure an 8-7 victory over host Dunham (21-4).

Cody McMurry earned the victory in relief. Shane McNeil finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs.

“We could have easily folded our tent and quit after we fell behind,” said Waguespack. “We didn’t. And I’m proud of that. I really think that helped us (against Curtis).”

Dunham is the sixth ranked team in Class 2A in power points. The Comets are ranked second behind Evangel.