The first three times Shaw and Brother Martin squared off this season, each contest ended with the winning team making a play late in the game to secure a one-run victory.
One win away from advancing to the next round of the Class 5A baseball playoffs, Brother Martin didn’t want it to be that close Saturday.
The Crusaders (22-11) jumped to an early lead and held on late to come away with a 5-2 win at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, sweeping their best-of-three second series 2-0.
“Every time we play Shaw it’s a scare, because we know we can’t let up,” said Brother Martin third baseman Mason Bonnaffons, who led the Crusaders by going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk. “You can’t be satisfied with your lead, because you know they’re going to come back and make it tough.
“It’s a testament to them, because they’re a really good team and we always have to fight against them.”
The Crusaders advance to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive season and will play against No. 22 Byrd in a best-of-three series beginning Friday.
Brother Martin is the only Catholic League team to advance to the quarterfinals this season.
“It just shows where our program is,” Wisniewski said. “We’re a little bit younger this year, but those guys battled. We’re ecstatic to be here, but it’s not good enough to just reach the quarterfinals — we want to go further than that.”
Brother Martin got things going early on offense, and jumped on the Eagles in the second inning.
The Crusaders got things started with back-to-back RBI singles from Luke Bernard and Joel Bergeron that gave Brother Martin its first two runs of the game.
Two batters later, Mason Bonnaffons smoked a 2-2 pitch to center field that brought in two more runners for a 4-0 lead.
Blake Gillies — and his 6-foot-8 frame — provided a calming presence on the mound for the Crusaders as the team’s starter, despite having trouble with his command at times. The Tulane commitment pitched 4.2 innings and only allowed two runs on one hit, while striking out four and walking four.
Gillies left the game in the fifth after allowing Shaw to load the bases, but Wisniewski decided to sub in Kevin Plunkett in relief, and the senior struck out Shaw pitcher Jace Nini to escape the inning unscathed.
“I was just thinking that I need to come in and throw strikes so I can help the team,” Plunkett said. “We got it going when we needed to. The playoffs are like a second season, and we’re just doing what we need to do to get wins.”
In Nini’s last start, he had a masterful complete-game performance in Shaw’s first-round victory over Hahnville, but the senior struggled in his last start as an Eagle.
The senior lasted six innings and gave up four runs on eights hits on 114 pitches. He also added four strikeouts and three walks, while going 0-for-4 at the plate — including a bases-loaded pop out to end the game.
“He’s a special player and I’m sad his career ended this way, but he’s got a lot of baseball left in his future,” Shaw coach Kirk Bullinger said said of his team’s senior leader. “Any time you lose your seniors without a championship it’s disappointing and a sad day. But what they’ve done for our program, I can’t say enough about it.”
The Eagles finished the season 18-14.