The wait was well worth it.
The Bishop Verot Vikings won their Region 4A-3 playoff opener, 4-1, against Palm Beach Cardinal Newman on Saturday at Duane Swanson Field.
The game was rained out Wednesday, again Thursday and couldn’t be played Friday because Newman couldn’t make the trip. In between players taking the SAT on Saturday morning and today, the Vikings and Cardinal Newman managed to squeeze in the game Saturday evening.
Verot (22-6-1) got a strong pitching performance from Jeff Passantino, backed up by solid defense and just enough hitting to eliminate the Crusaders (18-10) from the playoffs.
Bishop Verot travels to Fort Pierce on Tuesday to play Lincoln Park in the regional semifinals. Lincoln Park defeated LaBelle 4-3 in its playoff opener.
“Their approach, their plan, their game strategy was to get to Jeff early,” Bishop Verot coach David Nelson said. “But they couldn’t get good swings on him. Jeff, he competes. He goes right at the batters.
“He pitched well. On top of that we played great defense. Tonight was probably our best defensive performance of the entire year.”
Passantino (10-1) had a perfect game for 6 1/3 innings. He allowed one run on two hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
“Everything felt pretty good,” Passantino said. “We got together before the game and went over the scouting report on them, and I did what I needed to do. Everybody behind me played awesome.”
Ismael Brito made a sensational diving catch on a soft liner to open the seventh inning, a play that became bigger as the Crusaders mounted their only offense of the night later in the inning.
“It was a team effort,” Passantino said. “You can’t win unless everybody is flashing leather. That was an unbelievable catch (by Brito) and it just highlighted everybody else’s performance.”
Passantino also helped himself at the plate. His single scored Evan Dougherty, who opened the fourth with a triple. Designated hitter T.J. Feeney singled Passantino home for a 2-0 Vikings lead.
In the fifth, Danny Tufariello doubled to drive in two more Bishop Verot runs.
“Evan Dougherty started us out with that triple,” Nelson said. “T.J. Feeney, a senior, comes up big and singles to score our first run. And then Danny Tufariello coming up with that double that scored two runs. That was huge because it gave us a four-run lead instead of a two-run lead. That was big when they had that seventh inning when they got a couple of guys on and scored a run.”
There’s a long bus ride coming up Tuesday.
“About a 3 1/2 hour bus ride,” Nelson said. “We’ll make sure we’re ready and prepared. Right now we have a very minimal scouting report on Lincoln Park. We’ll go ahead and find some allies on the West Coast, see if LaBelle can help us out.
“We played on the road last year in the regional final. A lot of these guys were on that team. They understand what it takes. Lincoln Park’s going to be a good team. I hear that they’re scrappy, they bunt, they run. They’re going to put forth their best effort. We’re excited to keep on playing.”