After showing great resilience in scrambling out of last place and into the MIAA A Conference baseball playoffs over the last few weeks of the regular season, 6th-seeded Mount St. Joseph needed even more ingenuity, Sunday, as they faced 3rd-seeded Loyola in an opening round post-season game at Blakefield.
St. Joe starting pitcher Josh Pieniazek lasted just one batter when he was struck in the leg by a hard shot off the bat of Loyola leadoff hitter Rick Nickel, forcing three other Gaels to navigate seven innings while the St. Joe offense outlasted Loyola, 10-8, to claim the victory.
With the win, the Gaels (16-12) go right back out on the road on Monday to visit 2nd-seeded Calvert Hall in the winner’s bracket of this double-elimination tournament, while Loyola (16-10) will remain at home and face St. Paul’s in the tournament’s first elimination game. St. Paul’s lost its playoff opener, 4-1, against Gilman on Friday. Also on Monday, Gilman will visit top-seeded Archbishop Spalding in the other winner’s bracket game.
In the back-and-forth affair, the Gaels broke a 6-6 tie with a run in the top of the sixth and added an insurance run in the seventh. Matt Conley, Trevor Basso and Jake Howell combined on the relief effort with Howell blanking the Dons over the final two innings to close out the victory.
Catcher Jake Stilling led the offense with 3 RBI, while Michael McManus and Zac Stoll each drove in a pair of runs. The Gaels collected 10 hits, including triples by McManus and Ethan Gallagher as well as doubles by Howell and Connor Feustle, while Sean Baranski and Feustle combined to score five runs.
AJ Holcomb and Andrew Fava each doubled for the Dons. Fava’s two-bagger came with the bases load in the fifth inning and cleared the bases to rally the Dons from three down to a 6-6 tie.