On Monday, St. Mary’s couldn’t come up with enough clutch hits to beat St. Joe’s in the opener of the Georgetown Cup final. On Wednesday, the Lancers did come through with the bats.
“A funny game, isn’t it?” St. Mary’s coach Mike Wagner said. “That’s how it works. You’re watching two good high school baseball teams play here.”
They’ll get to play one more time for the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association title. The Lancers beat the Marauders, 5-2, in Coca-Cola Field, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon to even the series.
While the first two games of the championship round were play on the Buffalo Bisons’ home field, there will be a change of venue for Thursday’s climatic matchup. A country music concert is coming up in Coca-Cola Field, so Game Three had to find a new home.
“I’ve never been bounced for ‘Taste of Country’ before,” laughed St. Joe’s coach Paul Nasca. “But that’s fine. The bases are 90 feet apart. The mound is 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate.”
Since St. Mary’s was the higher seed, the Lancers will host the game in Lancaster at 4:30 p.m.
It didn’t take much to analysis to figure out that St. Mary’s had the better of the play this time. The Lancers had 10 hits in the game, with six players reaching base that way. The Marauders finished with only four hits, including two in the final inning.
St. Joe’s struck first in the game, taking advantage of three second inning walks and a run-producing single by Luke Pierce to strike first in the bottom of the second. St. Mary’s came right back in the top of the third inning. Zach Penksa and Joe Barberio both singled, with the latter working an absolutely perfect hit-and-run play to the spot where the second baseman had left to cover the bag.
Then Alex Bish’s long fly ball was mishandled, and Penksa and Barberio came in to score on the play. St. Mary’s had the lead for good.
The score stayed 2-1 until the fifth. Penksa and Barberio both reached base again (walk and single). With one out, Christian Szablewski doubled to left to drive home two more runs to make it a 4-1 game.
Szablewski was thrown out at third base on the play, but the three-run lead was very important at that stage of the contest.
“To me, that was the big hit of the game,” Wagner said.
Barberio added a little insurance in the sixth, as his single to left drove home John Pasternak. Barbiero finished 3 for 4, while Penksa went 2 for 3 with a walk. They set the table for the Lancers’ offense.
“Monday, Zach had a tough day at the plate - he was lining out to everyone,” Barberio said. “We were both trying to find something good early in the count and drive it.”
Meanwhile, a pitching change helped to change the complexion of the game. Barberio came on in relief for the start of the fourth inning.
“I knew once I got Barberio in there, we’d be fine,” Wagner said. “I hadn’t pitched him much all year. He’s a great catcher, but I said then, ‘You know what? Let’s get him on the mound.’”
The Lancers were more than fine from there. Barberio retired the first eight batters he faced, striking out four of them. He gave up a run in the bottom of the seventh, but otherwise was dominant.
“The coach told me ahead of time that I might pitch,” he said. “I come in sometimes when we are ahead or get in trouble late in the game.”
It is a little unusual for a catcher to move to the pitcher’s mound in the middle of the game. Barberio said he has been known to shake up his catching replacement in that situation.
“I have my own mindset out there, just like I was catching,” he said. “I know what I throw.”
“He was terrific,” Nasca said about Barberio. “They played a very good game. They were good defensively, they got key hits when they needed them, and they played the type of game you have to play in a championship series.”
A deciding game carries with it the usual set of phrases with it. The two coaches don’t need to have long speeches ready to fire up their teams.
“It’s winner-take-all - it’s doesn’t get any bigger,” Wagner said.
“March 6 was the starting day, and the opportunity to play for a championship is here on June 8,” Nasca said. “That was our intended goal, and we’ve got one game to go win. ... It takes good pitching and good defense to win a game, and it doesn’t matter where we play.”