Chase Dolly said it was “all or nothing” for Brother Martin’s baseball team in Saturday’s game against Shaw, and the Crusaders played like it.
Dolly’s clutch hitting and Kyler Johnston’s game-winning single helped the Crusaders (13-9, 1-3 in District 9-5A) overcome two late-inning deficits and defeat the Eagles 9-8 in a Catholic League matchup at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
“We definitely needed (this game),” Brother Martin coach Mark Wisniewski said. “We needed those other three games too, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
The Crusaders entered the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 8-6, but Kevin Stretzinger hit a pinch-hit double off the center field wall to give the Crusaders life.
After Parker Oubre moved the runner over with a sacrifice bunt, Johnston chopped a single off the infield grass and over the head of the Shaw second baseman to secure the win for the Crusaders, helping them avoid their first 0-4 start to district play in more than a decade.
“I just wanted to get the bat on a pitch and give the runner a chance to get home,” Johnston said. “We really wanted this win badly, and the team just left everything on the field to make sure we got the win.”
After the Crusaders expanded their lead to 4-2 in the fifth inning, Shaw (16-8, 1-3) took advantage of some faulty defense by the Brother Martin infielders to take its first lead since scoring the first run of the game.
Lance Landry opened the inning with a double to left field, and scored after an error by Brother Martin shortstop Michael Kirsch, cutting the Shaw deficit to 4-3.
Jace Nini followed the Kirsch error by hitting a ground-rule double, and Shaw took the lead when a grounder bounced through Kirsch’s legs for his second error of the inning, which allowed Shaw to go up 5-4.
Kyle Fletterich gave the Eagles their first RBI hit of the inning with a looping double to center field that made the Shaw lead 6-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
“We battled our butts off the whole game,” Shaw coach Kirk Bullinger said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been getting a lot of breaks lately. I know our guys feel that way, but sometimes you’ve got to make your own breaks.”
Despite falling behind, the Crusaders didn’t go away, matching Shaw’s four-run inning with a four-run inning of their own in the bottom of the sixth.
Dolly came to the plate and smacked a three-run double to right field and advanced to third base on the throw home. With Dolly at third, Nini, who was pitching in relief, was called for a balk, allowing Dolly to score and tie the game at 6-6 heading into the seventh.
Dolly led the Crusaders, going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base.
“I got behind in the count, so I knew he wanted to throw something off-speed and away,” Dolly said. “I’ve been working on hitting (to the opposite field), and he gave me something I could put the barrel on. I’m just glad all the hard work is paying off.”
Both teams put their initial runs of the game on the board following sacrifice flies, but the Crusaders bats finally broke loose in the third inning.
After Shaw starter Keith Meier put Blair Frederick on base after hitting him with a pitch, Crusaders catcher Jonathan Parker smacked a two-run home run over the left field wall to give Brother Martin a 3-1 lead.
Later in the inning, Shaw first baseman Zach Autin was ejected after questioning an umpire’s call on a throw to first base, but Meier found a way to escape the inning only allowing two runs.
Meier (3-2) finished the game pitching five innings, while allowing five hits, four runs, and striking out six.