The St. Augustine Prep baseball team came into Tuesday’s Non-Public A South final as the defending champion, but Gloucester Catholic, the newest member of the section, showed the Hermits that there is a new sheriff in town.
Hermits’ ace Kevin Baxter allowed a season-high six earned runs, as St. Augustine fell to the Rams, 12-4. The Hermits ended their season 19-10.
“Just the tradition of their program, you know they always bounce back and forth between A and B, but we had the attitude that we were the defending champs,” Hermits head coach Mike Bylone said. “The road went through St. Augustine this year and they knocked us off, so next year they’re the defending Non-Public (B) South (champions).
“It’s a tough one because we came a long way to get to this. The goal is to get to this game and then anything can happen in the state final. We just have to work harder next year, that’s all.”
Up 4-3 in the bottom of the third inning, Baxter allowed a one-out, RBI infield single to Rams first baseman John Brue to tie the game at 4-4. After walking a batter, Baxter forced a 5-3 double play as Hermits third baseman Christian Carmolingo tagged third before throwing over to first.
But the Rams would take the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth.
With the bases loaded after two walks and a hit batter to begin the inning, second baseman Patrick Kane hit an RBI single to right-center to score shortstop Rob Alessandrine.
During that same play, a Hermits’ error allowed another run to score. After a wild pitch plated another Ram and the score was 7-4, Baxter allowed a triple to designated hitter Joe Brooks that went off the wall in right field. That pitch would be his last of the game. He was relieved by Chris Oakley, who, after a strikeout, allowed another run on a wild pitch to make it 8-4 in favor of the Rams.
“It just wasn’t my day,” Baxter said. “Not every pitcher has a good game (every time). I mean, this is the first game I think I gave up more than four runs. I’d have to put this one on me because my infield, they make every play. It’s on me for not throwing strikes.”
After a three-run second inning leftt the Hermits trailing 3-0, the Prep rallied back to take a lead in the top of the third. With two men on and one out, shortstop Christian Adorno hit a deep fly ball to right field that was caught by Rams right fielder Joe Santone, who then committed a two-base throwing error trying to hold left fielder Jon Martinez at second. The error scored Martinez and put Mike Scimeca on third.
Second baseman Kyle Lindsay hit a two-out RBI single the next at-bat, followed by a double to center by catcher Barry Buchowski to score Lindsay from first. The Hermits got another two-out hit from Carmolingo the next at-bat to score Buchowski and take a 4-3 lead.
“When you’re playing at this level, unless you have 10 runs in the fifth inning, you know that the teams are just going to keep coming at you,” Bylone said. “We showed some fight. We never gave up and I’m really proud of our team for how we battled. We could have easily just folded down, but that’s not what we’re about.”
Those four runs in the top of the third would be the only ones scored by the Hermits. The Rams would score four runs off the Hermits bullpen, finishing with twelve runs on ten hits.
“It’s just tough,” Buchowski said. “To beat these guys you have to be on your A-game with everything, with catching, fielding, pitching, hitting, everything. Just one bad inning turns into a rally for them and they just feed off of it, and we just never bounced back.
“That’s why they’re going to play on Saturday and we have to look forward to next year.”