Following his team’s 3-1 loss to Brother Martin on Tuesday, Holy Cross coach Greg Battistella knew exactly what cost his team a share of first place in District 9-5A.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to their two pitchers,” Battistella said. “They’re tired. They’ve played ... four days in a row.”
Holy Cross (19-12) is left with a 6-3 Catholic League record, a game behind Jesuit (7-2), which beat Shaw 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Brother Martin pitcher Corey Gaconi snuffed the Tigers’ most serious threat in the fifth inning when they strung together three hard-hit singles off starter Luke Bernard to cut the lead to 3-1 with one out.
Gaconi, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior, was appearing in only his fourth game, all in the last three weeks as he returns from a strained tendon in his forearm. He needed only four pitches to retire the Tigers on a strikeout and pop out.
“I’m not used to coming in from the bullpen,” said Gaconi (2-2). “But it’s the same mentality, just throw strikes and work on top. Good things will happen when you throw strikes.”
In the seventh, Holy Cross’ first two batters reached with none out on a single by pitcher Christian Clayton and an error. Gaconi needed only eight pitches to record a strikeout, a line out and a pop fly.
Holy Cross starter Christian Clayton (5-3) struggled early as the Crusaders scored a run in the first inning and added two in the second.
Before registering an out in the third, Clayton had walked five batters.
Brother Martin scored its run in the first after a walk to Mason Bonnaffons and a double in the left center field gap by LSU commitment Blair Frederick. Bonnaffons rounded third and was hung up between third and home before eventually scoring when the Tigers’ cut-off man failed to make a play.
The Crusaders added a pair of walks in the second that eventually scored after an errant pick-off attempt, a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Two more walks began the third inning, but after a visit from Battistella, Clayton rediscovered the strike zone.
Brother Martin coach Mark Wisniewski said he thought his team had “a chance early to put (Holy Cross) out of the game. It was there for us. But we didn’t have quality at-bats there.”
In the fifth, Holy Cross scored its lone run when Matt Muhleisen led off with a ringing single to left.
Tre Turner and Grant Schulz followed with hard singles to make it 3-1. Gaconi replaced Bernard and ended the threat.
Holy Cross was 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
“I think we stranded a small village (on the bases),” Battistella said.
Gaconi looms as an added weapon as the state playoffs approach.
“I’m excited to have Corey back,” Wisniewski said. “That’s what Corey does, throws strikes.”
“It’s good to be back and (try to) make a run in the playoffs and take it home,” Gaconi said.