WILMINGTON – The St. Mark’s baseball team didn’t let a dramatic shift in momentum decide the game Thursday.
Instead, the Spartans shifted the momentum back their way with a textbook eighth inning.
Top-ranked St. Mark’s jumped out to a five-run lead, watched as archrival Salesianum rallied to tie it, then won 7-5 with two runs in the eighth at the Sals’ Kenney Diamond.
“We knew this team is never easy to play,” said junior right fielder Jeremy Vogel, who delivered the go-ahead hit in the top of the eighth. “It’s Sallies-St. Mark’s, it could go either way. It doesn’t matter how much you’re up by.”
The Spartans (12-2) swept the regular-season series, adding to an 11-2 win over the Sals on April 19 at Frawley Stadium. This one looked like it was going to be easy when St. Mark’s scored two in the second on Chris Ludman’s RBI single and an error, one in the third on Thomas Gibb’s sacrifice fly and two in the fourth on Andrew Reich’s two-out single.
Spartans starter Billy Sullivan held the Sals to two hits through the first three innings. But Salesianum (8-4) got two runs back on John Andreoli’s bases-loaded fielder’s choice and an error in the bottom of the fourth.
Then the Sals really made it interesting when Zach Miller crushed a three-run double to deep left in the fifth to tie it at 5.
“I thought Billy was cruising along, and he kind of let it get away from him a little bit,” St. Mark’s coach Matt Smith said. “Give them credit. They battled back.”
Sean Gilardi relieved Sullivan and pitched a perfect sixth. But the Sals loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh on singles by Josh Maguire and Joe Cautillo and an intentional walk. The winning run was just 90 feet away, but Gilardi coaxed a fly ball to right to send the game to extra innings.
“I just tried to stay composed, use all of my pitches to the best of my ability,” Gilardi said. “I know I’ve got a good defense behind me, willing to knock down a ball, dive for it, do anything.”
Then the Spartans manufactured a run perfectly in the top of the eighth. Matt Theodorakis led off with a single, Chris Ludman moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt and Vogel followed with a single to left. Theodorakis beat the throw home for a 6-5 lead.
“I knew I had to put a ball in play somewhere hard and move that runner over, because the guy in front of me did a pretty good job,” Vogel said.
Vogel went to second on the throw home, and scored the final run on a two-out double to left by Tyler Kaczmarczyk.
“We had opportunities to get the bunts down early in the game and we didn’t do it,” Smith said. “Luds got a big bunt down, Jeremy came up with a big hit and then Kaz came up with a big hit. I’m proud of the boys.”
Gilardi finished it with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, as Ludman fought off a bad hop at third for the first out and the left-hander ended the game with a strikeout.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.