Brother Martin and Jesuit didn’t expect it to be like this the first time they played this season.
The rival schools have combined to win the past eight Catholic League baseball crowns, but they each entered Wednesday’s matchup on two-game losing streaks and a combined 1-3 record in District 9-5A.
With a “must-win” atmosphere in the air on a gloomy night at John Ryan Stadium, Jesuit (17-6, 2-1) utilized a dominant pitching performance by Jack Burk and some timely hitting to pull of a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Crusaders on Wednesday.
“I said after our last game that I expect a lot of our district games to go this way, and heres one more one-run game,” Jesuit coach Joey Latino said. “It says a lot about our league, and how every game you have to be at your best.”
Burk came up huge for the Blue Jays, pitching a 6.2 innings, allowing three hits, one run, five walks and striking out 11 to push his record to 4-0 on the season.
The only time the senior faced trouble the entire night was in the seventh inning, when he allowed the Crusaders to load the bases with only one out. Burk was able to get one more out, but after he walked in the only Brother Martin run of the game, Latino removed him from the game.
The Blue Jays had to go through two different relief pitchers and even walked in one more run for Martin, but they were finally able to get the final out and pull of the much-needed win
“At the end, we got a little life and we were looking for that big hit,” Brother Martin coach Mark Wisniewski said. “But it didn’t just come down to that last inning. You have to go back earlier in the game where we were looking at third strikes and just not competing the way we know how.”
After putting runners on in each of the first two innings, Jesuit finally broke through and was the first to make their way onto the scoreboard in Wednesday’s game.
After Brother Martin pitcher Blair Frederick put two runners on base by walking Brandon Briuglio and hitting Ben Hess, Scott Crabtree swatted an RBI single to right field to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
Frederick walked the next batter to load the bases for the Blue Jays, but the LSU commit struck out Harrison Daste to end the inning and limit the Blue Jays to one run.
Frederick took the loss for the Crusaders, pitching four innings and allowing four hits, one run and striking out eight.
“After dropping the past two, it was nice to bounce back and play as hard as we did tonight,” Burk said.
After the Blue Jays opened the bottom of the fifth inning with back-to-back singles by Hess and Trent Forshag, the Crusaders were forced to remove Frederick from the mound, and the Blue Jays were able to get rolling on offense.
With Luke Bernard pitching for the Crusaders, Crabtree took advantage, smacking his second RBI single of the day to give Jesuit a 2-0 lead. After Bernard walked the next two batters he faced, including a bases-loaded walk, he was replaced at pitcher in favor of Kevin Plunkett.
Plunkett came out and righted the ship for the Crusaders, retiring three Blue Jays in a row to end the inning, but not before Jesuit grabbed a hold of a 3-0 lead heading into the sixth inning.
Crabtree finished the day 2-for-3 with two runs batted in.
“We had runners in scoring position, and I was just trying to do my job,” Crabtree said. “We had one of our aces on the mound, and we just had to get enough runs on the board to support him.”
With the loss, the Crusaders’ record fall to 12-9 on the season, with an 0-3 record against Catholic League competition. Wisniewski said that the reigning back-to-back District 9-5A champions need to get back to the basics if they want to get back to where they’ve been the past two seasons.
“We just have to get back to work,” Wisniewski said.