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St. Francis’ DeLeo takes charge in opener

Apparently St. Francis is only the fourth seed in the Georgetown Cup playoffs. The Red Raiders sure do make it tough to tell.

St. Francis jumped ahead in the Georgetown Cup championship on Tuesday, beating third-seeded St. Mary’s, 7-0, in the opener of the best-of-three series.

“Before the playoffs started, I told everybody, ‘No matter what happens in the playoffs, I see us in the Georgetown Cup final,’ ” said senior Mike DeLeo after the win at Coca-Cola Field. “Last year we lost, 1-0, to Canisius in the semis, but we came back this year hard.

“One more game and we’re going to win it.”

DeLeo made sure he did his part. The senior right-hander tossed a complete game, four-hit shutout, while striking out 10.

“Mike didn’t probably have his best stuff, but he’s good enough even when he doesn’t have his best to throw a four-hitter,” St. Francis coach Paul Bartell said. “He’s proven that he’s up there among the top three or four guys in the area this year.”

DeLeo walked four batters and hit another. He fell behind hitters at times, too, but always found a way to escape trouble. In the second inning, St. Mary’s had runners on second and third with no outs. DeLeo forced a pair of fly outs and a strikeout to end the threat.

He did it again in the fourth.

DeLeo walked two batters to load the bases, but a sharp breaking ball struck out Alex Bish of St. Mary’s to end the inning. DeLeo stranded 10 St. Mary’s runners on base in all. After striking out Bish, DeLeo delivered a spirited fist-bump as he walked off the mound. That was a theme of the night.

“It seems like I have people on the base all the time,” DeLeo said, “but I just get myself out of it. When that curveball fell down and he swung and missed, that was probably the greatest moment tonight.”

DeLeo has not allowed an earned run in two playoff starts this year. He pitched a one-hitter in the semifinals against Canisius.

St. Francis took a 3-0 lead in the third inning on RBI hits by Joe Milkowski, Nick Ferrino and Jacob Victor. It then tacked on another run in the fourth as Francisco Guzman’s single snuck through the right side of the infield. Red Raiders catcher Ty Syta hit a two-run triple to deep right field in the seventh that highlighted a three-run inning.

“Once we came through the order the second time, I think we figured it out a little bit,” Bartell said. “We stayed back, hit the ball hard more on a line and on the ground and that made a difference in terms of hits.”

Syta went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs. Victor, Shawn Wagner and Jerry Hickson each had a pair of hits, too.

Bartell noted that he’s been saying all year long that his team is young. His team picked a good time to come of age, as the Red Raiders have now won nine of their last 11 games.

“That was kind of the theme as we went into this,” Bartell said. “If we’re going to peak and we’re going to grow up a little bit as a team, now’s a good time to do it.”

Game Two of the best-of-three series was scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, but that has been moved ahead to 3 p.m. because of graduation at St. Mary’s.