MILLTOWN – A ground ball that barely sneaked under the fielder’s outstretched glove washed away two and a half hours of frustration for Peter Berardi.
Berardi’s single to right field brought home the winning run in the 11th inning as No. 2 ranked St. Mark’s capped a comeback over visiting Flight A power Appoquinimink 6-5 in a non-conference game Tuesday.
“Personally, I think it was probably one of the worst games I ever played,” said the Spartans’ senior second baseman and lead-off hitter. “But, all in all, all I’m worried about is winning right now. I know the guys are, too. And to get a win at the end is all that matters.”
St. Mark’s (9-2) bounced back from a 5-2 deficit in the sixth inning, scoring three times. The rally was aided by a pair of errors, a wild pitch on strike three, and a two-out miscue of sorts which tied the game.
With runners at first and third base, Berardi hit a grounder to the shortstop, who chose to try for the force out at second base. However, Brian Gilardi hustled to beat the throw, keeping the inning going while bringing in the tying run.
Following strong relief from Kevin Banning of Appoquinimink and Andrew Reich and John Perry for St. Mark’s, the Spartans finally broke through for the win in the 11th.
Coming into the frame, Banning had kept the hitters off balance, coaxing 11 high pop-ups or harmless fly balls among his 13 outs recorded, a fact not lost on the St. Mark’s players.
“Everybody tried to do too much, trying to win it by themselves,” said Mark Ferelli, who led off the inning as a pinch-hitter. “It’s the series of small events that help to win the game. I had to hit the ball on the ground, that’s one thing.”
The series of small events began with his ground ball to deep short. Ferelli, saying he ran about as fast as was possible for him, just beat the throw on a bang-bang play. Coach Matt Smith then replaced him on the bases with Peyton Schultz, the player for whom Ferelli had pinch-hit.
“He’s not fast; no he’s not,” Smith joked. “But he did a great job hitting the ball on the ground, deep in the hole, and he beat the play. He did a nice job coming off the bench and giving us a spark. He practices hard and usually puts his bat on the ball.”
Brian Gilardi bunted Schultz to second, setting up Berardi’s game-winner.
“Pete’s the heart and soul of our team,” said Smith. “It wasn’t his best day, but he battled through it.”
The second baseman’s day began when he bobbled an apparent double-play ground ball with one out in the first. Berardi was able to get a force at second base, but Brett Willett scored from third base and Appoquinimink had a 1-0 lead. Willett finished with three hits, driving in a run in the top of the sixth.
Berardi later committed a pair of errors, and even when he made a sterling fielding play, the Jaguars scored.
In the fifth, Julian Kurych scorched a triple to left-center, scoring Banning, who had walked and advanced on a sacrifice. Matt Alexander then skied a foul down the right-field line which Berardi chased down and snagged. Going away from the plate, he had little chance to throw out the speedy Kurych.
“It was a good read,” Appoquinimink coach Billy Cunningham said of Kurych. “Both of those fielders had their back to the play. It’s a long throw for an infielder to make, and he saw it was caught, got a good jump and was able to score.”
In each of the three innings in which the Jaguars scored, Cunningham used a sacrifice bunt, knowing every run would be precious.
“Absolutely,” he said. “They’re one of the better clubs in the state year in and year out, and you have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them. In the middle innings, we were able to do that, but later in the game we didn’t have guys on early in the inning.”
In a game that totaled nine errors, starter Ryan Steckline yielded five unearned runs in 5 2/3 innings for the Jaguars (9-3), while St. Mark’s starter Billy Sullivan went six innings, allowing four earned and one unearned run.