The Sacred Heart High School baseball team learned just how quickly momentum could swing on Tuesday.
The second-seeded Lions had everything going their way entering the seventh inning of their Non-Public B South final with top-seeded Marist at Overbrook High School, having just tied the ballgame up the frame before.
But Sacred Heart’s enthusiasm quickly vanished, as the Royal Knights loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning and plated the game-winning run on a hit-by-pitch for a 2-1 victory and their first sectional title since 1993.
The Lions (17-9) were seeking their first crown since 2000.
“I don’t think there was pressure coming in, but I think as it got late in the game, we started feeling the pressure a lot,” said right fielder Steve Steigerwalt. “But when we tied it up, I thought we had a really good shot at it, but it just didn’t happen.”
Trailing 1-0 entering the sixth, Sacred Heart turned the contest in its favor, as Steigerwalt hit a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Holvin Figueroa and knot the game at 1-1. However, Figueroa hurt his left hamstring running home on the play, hopping on one leg back to the dugout.
It was an emotional moment for the Lions, who were pumped to tie the game, but worried about Figueroa, who had been spectacular pitching. He threw five innings, allowing just one unearned run on two hits while striking out seven.
Figueroa, who had injured his hamstring just a few days earlier, decided to tough it out by coming out to pitch the sixth. However, he didn’t look right, allowing a leadoff single and hitting the next batter, forcing coach John Triantos to pull him.
“I wanted to stay in the game more than anyone wanted to,” Figueroa said. “It was my game. I wanted it more than anybody.”
Brandon Triantos came in in relief, and after striking out the first batter, Marist’s Steve Tsugranes roped a line drive at Figueroa, who stayed in the game at second base. Figueroa made the grab, and doubled off Danny Mirabel to end the threat.
“I was pumped. I knew we had it. I knew we could do it,” Brandon said of his feelings after the double play. “We could win it from there. We had heart the whole time, we had heart that inning to make the plays, and once we did, it was just, it was refreshing. It was a new beginning. It was amazing.”
But the Lions’ luck quickly turned from there. They went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh, and in the bottom of the inning, the breaks went Marist’s way.
The Knights’ Derek Edge led off with a dribbler in front of the plate. Brandon tried to make a barehanded play to throw him out at first, but overthrew the bag, allowing Edge to get to third.
Then, after intentionally loading the bases, Triantos beaned Tim Rodriguez with a breaking ball on a 1-2 count to end the game.
“I thought it was going to be a strike, I really did,” he said. “My pitch is weird, it’s late, it breaks late.”
While the season had some highlights, Triantos wasn’t ready to see them.
“We beat a couple big teams, but we also lost to a lot of teams we should’ve beat,” he said. “This game, this should’ve been a win in my book, any day, but, that’s how baseball is, you never know what you’re going to get.”