St. Michael the Archangel scratched out enough offense to take a 4-0 lead after four innings against Catholic High ace Ross Massey at Grizzly Field on Thursday, but the Bears turned to the long ball to answer with six runs in the fifth and sixth innings to edge the Warriors 6-4.
“Against a strong pitcher like Massey, you’ll take baserunners any kind of way you can get them,” St. Michael coach Johnny Bernhard said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They passed the test in every way. I told them they went up against a college level pitcher tonight.”
Catholic (20-2) got clutch doubles from Hayden Mixon in the fifth inning and Brandon Fairbanks and Bo Branch in the sixth to spoil a gritty pitching performance by Jonathan Lofton and the visitors’ strong defense.
Massey, a Tulane signee, weathered a tough fourth inning to go all the way, giving up seven hits, striking out six and walking one.
Lofton battled on even terms through the first four innings before the Bears finally broke loose, scattering four hits and striking out three.
Mixon also drove in the Bears’ final run with a fielder’s choice ground ball in the sixth to finish off a three-RBI night.
It was a bit of atonement for Mixon, who had committed two earlier errors, and satisfaction for Fairbanks, who lost a sure extra base hit in the second on a sensational sliding catch by St. Michael center fielder Garrett Hamilton.
“In my first at-bat, I was rounding first base and I saw him (Hamilton) moving so fast,” Fairbanks said. “It was killer. I thought I had a sure triple.”
St. Michael (9-7) hit only one ball out of the infield in a big fourth, but it scored four runs in the inning.
After Chris Reid opened the inning with a solid single to right, Nolan Tiersch reached base on a bunt that died on the chalk of the third base line. Michael Smith looped a soft single into right to fill the bases. Catholic appeared to have a chance at an out on Ross Scelfo’s grounder to third, but Hayden Mixon’s throw for the force out at home was in the dirt, and St. Michael was on the scoreboard. The Warriors added three more on a wild pitch, an infield out and a smash off Massey’s foot by Chad Alello.
Catholic coach Brad Bass said his team never lost its poise, even when it went down 4-0.
“This team is relentless,” he said. “They never panic; they never complain about it. They just stay in the game as long as it takes. We’ve watched Ross do this for three years. As the game goes on, he gets stronger. When he gets backed into a corner, he gets stronger.”
Catholic came back with two runs in the fifth on a two-run double by Mixon, scoring Brandon Fairbanks and Josh Smith. The Bears tied it in the sixth on Fairbanks’ double, went ahead on Branch’s double and added one more run before Massey finished his complete game in the seventh, giving up a walk before getting a ground out to end it.
The first three innings were mostly pitching and defense as Massey and Lofton opened with three shutout innings. Massey held the Warriors to two singles and benefited from two sparkling defensive plays by second baseman Bo Branch in the first. St. Michael advanced runners to second base in the second and third, but Massey picked both of them off to end each inning.
Lofton allowed baserunners in all three innings but work out of trouble each time.