Somewhere between the conversations about there being no mercy rule in the West Catholic Athletic League tournament, and Serra loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth while trailing by 10 to Bellarmine, the dare too dream was in the air that the Padres may have had another great comeback story left to write.
Two big innings doomed Serra, as Bellarmine (24-6) triumphed 12-2 to walk away with the WCAL Tournament championship last night at Schott Stadium. With the win, Bellarmine earns co-championship honors in the WCAL along with Serra and St. Francis.
The Bells batted around twice in the game, scoring six runs in the second and five more in the fourth. In addition to banging out 11 hits, Bellarmine drew nine walks throughout.
“We just struggled in the strike zone,” Serra manager Craig Gianinno said. “Bellarmine capitalized and kept pressure on. Tip your hat to Bellarmine. We just didn’t get it done tonight. But that does not diminish the success of this team. This is a great baseball team.”
Serra (24-6) suffered persistent bouts of wildness from the get-go. In the first, Bellarmine pushed its first run across thanks to two wild pitches from Padres starter Sean Watkins. Leadoff hitter Joey Persons reached on a high chopper off the glove of third baseman Christian Conci that went for a single. Persons then advanced to second and third on a pair of pitches in the dirt, before Jack Thoreson drove him home with a sacrifice fly.
In the second, Padres pitchers issued four walks and hit a batsman, as the Bells sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning. Andrew Mallon started the rally by reaching on an error on a slow infield chopper. Austin Hatfield drove a triple to deep left to score Mallon. James Gaffey followed with a single to plate Hatfield. After Jack Calomeni hit into a double play, six straight Bells reached base, with walks to Persons, Corby Punian and Jake Whipple, before Thoreson cashed in with a two-RBI single. Scotty Jarvis was then hit by a pitch, knocking Watkins from the game.
But Padres reliever Jordan Jauregui couldn’t settle things down, as the senior walked Mallon to force home Whipple, then threw a wild pitch to plate Thoreson, giving Bellarmine a 7-0 lead.
“When our pitchers got behind they just kind of lost their confidence,” Serra catcher Michael Tinsley said. “And then it’s hard to bring that back. Looking back, I should have talked to them about getting their confidence up, and (letting them know) I believe in them.”
In the top of the fourth, Bellarmine again batted around, sending 10 batters to the plate amid a five-run inning. Whipple, Thoreson and Jarvis loaded the bases with three straight singles. Jauregui departed for senior right-hander Paul Murray, who walked in three runs with free passes to Hatfield, Calomeni and Persons, before getting snake bit by an infield single — a slow roller to deep shortstop off the bat of Punian — that not only plated Hatfield, but on the ensuing throw to first base Calomeni stormed all the way around from second to score.
In the bottom of the frame, Serra got on the board. Jordan Paroubeck led off with a walk. Murray singled advancing Paroubeck to third, before he scored on an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Conci. With two outs, John Murray singled to right to plate Conci, closing out the night’s scoring.
Bellarmine starting pitcher Sam Fontaine kept his undefeated season intact, earning the win with four-plus innings to up his record to 8-0. Watkins took the loss for Serra. His record falls to 3-2. Bells’ pitching entered into play last night with a 1.30 ERA as a staff this season. They allowed just three runs combined to St. Ignatius, St. Francis and Serra throughout the WCAL tournament.
“All the guys we’ve run out there have done an outstanding job,” Bellarmine manager Mike Rodriguez said. “They pounded the zone. They threw strikes with multiple pitches. And when you can do that, even the best hitters have a hard time.”
Serra looked to amass the comeback of comebacks in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs. But Murray struck out after a nine-pitch at bat, before Conci hit into an inning ending double play.
“Our kids do not give up, and I think it’s a testament to their belief in each other, and belief in themselves,” Gianinno said. “They’re champions.”
Serra now looks to write a happy ending to the 2013 season next week, as the Central Coast Section playoffs begin Wednesday.
“We sort of break it into four chapters,” Gianinno said. “We’re just closing out Chapter 3 and now we’re going to open up a new chapter.”