Tuesday, May 16, 2017

St. Paul baseball ends Holy Cross' dream of perfect season

Andrew Owsianko had a big home run to get St. Paul back into Tuesday's home game against Holy Cross.
St. Paul baseball didn't play well Monday in a 3-0 loss at Oxford that cost it the NVL Copper Division title.
The defending state champion Falcons were off to another tough start against the undefeated Holy Cross Crusaders on Tuesday in a matchup of two of the top four teams in Class S. 
When Matt Bonvicini launched a home run of about 400 feet to dead center field in the top of the third inning, Holy Cross led 4-0.
In the words of St. Paul head coach Vic Rinaldi, the Falcons could have packed it in and given up.
Instead, Andrew Owsianko rocketed a big three-run homer to right center in the bottom of the third inning, and St. Paul had new life. The Falcons came all the way back, twice, and used a big four-run sixth inning to claim an 8-5 comeback victory.
St. Paul improved to 15-3, and Holy Cross dropped to 18-1.
The Falcons caught the Crusaders at 4-4 in the fourth inning, then again at 5-5 in the sixth inning.
Ryan Greene got a chance to play hero, and he made the most of it. Greene ripped the first pitch he saw down the left field line for a bases-clearing double, then reached third on an errant throw to the plate.
"Ryan's just a confident hitter," Rinaldi said. "He was hitting in the five-hole to start the season and we moved him to the clean-up spot. He's the type of hitter who has the confidence that no one will beat him."
The Falcons were ahead 8-5, and complete-game winner Wes Lahey closed out the Crusaders, with some help. Freshman centerfielder Ethan Rembish made a diving catch on a fly ball from Bonvicini, then doubled up a baserunner to squelch a final Holy Cross rally.
Like the Oxford game, St. Paul started slow against Holy Cross. Adam Razza -- a menace at the plate against the Falcons -- took advantage of a foul ball that dropped in and ripped a leadoff double in the top of the first. A Fran Phelan fly to right moved Razza to third, then a Bonvicini grounder to short brought Razza in for a 1-0 lead.
Holy Cross first baseman Matt Bonvicini watches his mamoth solo home run.
A passed ball and a throwing error gave Holy Cross two more runs and a 3-0 lead in the second inning. With one out in the third, Bonvicini annihilated a pitch over the center field fence -- and the back fence to boot -- to put the Crusaders ahead 4-0.
With Chris Flynn on the mound, Holy Cross seemed to be in a comfortable spot. St. Paul catcher Chris Mills, who had a tough day behind the plate, singled to lead off the bottom of the third inning. Tom Houle reached on a one-out walk, but Flynn recorded a strikeout, then got ahead of Owsianko 0-2.
Flynn didn't get his 0-2 pitch where he wanted it, and Owsianko laced it over the fence to get the Falcons to within 4-3.
"Owsianko's home run did a good job of getting us back into the game," Rinaldi said. "I think that was the biggest play in the game."
Flynn again got the first two outs of an inning, this time in the fourth. Rembish worked a walk, then Houle singled. Nick Morrell followed with a single to tie the game.
Holy Cross regained the lead in the fifth on a passed ball, then Razza preserved it with an all-out diving catch to end the bottom frame. The Crusaders maintained that 5-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning and were six outs away from getting to 19-0.
St. Paul's Ethan Rembish was a thorn in the side of Holy Cross on Tuesday.
St. Paul had other plans. Rembish singled with one out, stole second base, and reached third on a balk when a pitch slipped out of Flynn's hand. Houle's single tied the game at 5 and brought an end to Flynn's day. Morrell greeted Holy Cross reliever Austin Brown with a single, then moved up to second on a throw to third. Owsianko was walked intentionally, but Greene came through with his liner down the line.
"We did well, we responded well after [Monday's] game," Rinaldi said.
St. Paul's coaches went back and forth about sending Lahey out for the seventh, but Greene's hit made the decision for them. The Falcons want Lahey ready for the NVL Tournament on Saturday, and he hit the 109-pitch limit on the button.
Phelan reached on a throwing error to start the seventh. Bonvicini lifted a fly ball toward left center, and Rembish ran after it. Rembish dove and came up with the ball, then threw back to the infield. The ball ended up at third base, which is where Phelan was.
As it turned out, Phelan left early, and Owsianko threw back to second base to complete the double play. A grounder to shortstop Julian Thayer closed the game out.
The postseason begins with the NVL quarterfinals on Saturday, and Rinaldi expects to see Holy Cross again. The Crusaders will still enter the tournament as the top seed, and they are also in Class S with the Falcons.
St. Paul has two more games left in the regular season. Wednesday is Senior Day against Naugatuck, then the Falcons host Terryville in a makeup game on Thursday.
Holy Cross still has one game left, and it has to wait until Sunday to play it. Montville, which plays five games this week, comes to Oronoke Road for a 2 p.m. makeup game. That game will be between the quarterfinal and semifinal days of the NVL Tournament. It will be a weird set up for the Crusaders, but they are still the team to beat in the NVL.
"Mike has a very good team, they're well-coached," Rinaldi said.
Wouldn't it be fun to have St. Paul-Holy Cross Part II? Or how about Part III? Both could happen, and if those games provide the excitement that Tuesday did, fans of the Falcons and Crusaders are in for some more pulsating action.

PHOTOS: Click here for images from Tuesday's game.

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