Sometimes the best call a coach can make is the no-call.
When St. Joe's baseball coach Paul Nasca decided not to pull his starting pitcher, who was in a considerable jam in the fifth inning, it paid off in a big way, contributing to a 5-3 victory over St. Francis in the opener of the best-of-three Georgetown Cup championship series.
The Marauders were nursing a 4-2 lead after four innings when starting pitcher Matt Matre gave up a stand-up double, a solid single and was down 3-0 in the count to the next batter to start the fifth. Out came Nasca from the dugout, with most fans at Coca Cola Field expecting a pitching change. There was none. Instead, Matre went on to retire the side in order.
"It's having confidence in your players Matthew was with us last year, he's been through this, and we trusted our big guy on the mound to get us out of that jam, and he certainly did," Nasca said. "That was a big turning point in the game."
Matre (4-3) lasted 5 1/3 innings scattering seven hits and giving up just one earned run. He also helped himself at the plate with three hits, one of which drove in a run in the fourth. "My coach has confidence in me, he knew I could bail out of that," Matre said.
Reliever Chris Sciandra went 1 2/3 innings to earn the save.
The game was frustrating for the Red Raiders, who not only played from behind the whole way, but left runners at second and third in the fifth and sixth innings. They rallied to score a run in the seventh when Ryan Stefaniak drew a one-out walk and later scored on a wild pitch, but it wasn't enough. The loss snapped a 12-game winning streak.
"We'll bounce back. I don't think we played our best game today. That's all. Simple," St. Francis coach Paul Bartell said. "In the first inning we made some defensive mistakes that put us down early, and then in the fifth and sixth when we had guys on to tie, and even the seventh -- when that tying run's on every inning for the last three and not be able to get some guys in, that's frustrating."
St. Joe's pounded out 14 hits and had baserunners on in every inning except the fifth.
"I thought we had some really good at-bats against a really good pitcher," Nasca said. "[Drew] Bassini is a great pitcher for St. Francis and we were able to get some balls in play and we got some guys on base. We got into a little bit of a scuffle through the middle innings, but we came back with the big run in the top of the seventh. That was a huge run to get in that situation."
The Marauders' loaded the bases in the first inning with no outs as Tyler Mills, Jared Baldinelli and Donny Kilian all reached. St. Francis got two groundouts, but Philip Wells set the tone when he delivered with two-run single. The other run scored on an error. St. Joe's led 3-1 after two innings and 4-2 after four. St. Francis got a big play on defense throwing a runner out at home in the sixth.
St. Joe's (15-9) will be chasing its first Georgetown Cup title since 2005 when it meets the Red Raiders (17-5) again at 4 p.m. today at Coca Cola Field.
St. Francis needs to win the next two, something they managed to do during the Monsignor Martin Association regular season, 5-1 and 1-0.
St. Joe's is expected to start sophomore Chris Falk while St. Francis will counter with either lefty Matthew Minnick or Andrew Krakowski. "They got some guys in the middle of the order who can really hit the ball so I'm looking to work the offspeed and stay confident with the fastball," said Falk, who was the tough-luck loser in the 1-0 game.