Central Catholic baseball takes advantage of opportunities to win
Friday's early season Section 3-AAAA showdown between Plum and Central Catholic was a matter of cashing in opportunities. Or not.
Central Catholic, ranked fifth in this week's Trib Total Media Class AAAA poll, scored seven runs after two were out, while the fourth-rated Mustangs left seven runners stranded in scoring position as the Vikings rolled to a 13-7 victory.
Alex Barretta homered and doubled for Central (5-1, 2-0), while P.J. DeMeo added a double and a triple as the Vikings hit Plum ace Zac Manuppelli hard.
The Mustangs (7-2, 2-1) banged out 13 hits but made an uncharacteristic three errors to help the Central Catholic cause.
The Vikings scored in every inning but the third.
“We're hitting, and I thought our offense did a good job today against a very, very tough pitcher,” said Central Catholic coach Frank LaCava. “(Manuppelli's) a great competitor. He does a great job against us, but our bats have been staying strong all year.”
Plum's undoing was prolonged time in the field. Three infield errors led to four unearned Central runs.
“We didn't play well enough to beat a good baseball team,” said Mustangs coach Carl Vollmer. “They hit some good pitches, but when you're not getting it done defensively, the ripple effect of that is the pitcher has to throw more pitches and face more hitters.”
Freshman designated hitter Ethan Winesburg drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the first inning to put the Mustangs in front, 3-1.
But the lead was short-lived. With two outs in the second, Barretta went the opposite way with a fly that was taken over the left-field fence by a strong wind gust to give Central Catholic the lead for good.
DeMeo tripled and scored in the third as the Vikings added three more runs to make it 7-2.
Plum looked poised for a big inning in the third with runners on second and third with none out and a run in. But Vikings starter Matt Stoessel got two strikeouts and a popup to second to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, after Austin O' Block's double sent Andrew Dawson to third with none out, reliever and winning pitcher Joel Shaffer gave up a run on a grounder to second. But a sliding catch by Garrett Urbanic in center field ended the inning.
“Stoessel, our No. 1 pitcher, didn't have his great stuff today, but he competed and kept us in the ballgame,” LaCava said. “Then sophomore Shaffer limited them.”
“We struck out too many times with runners in scoring position,” Vollmer aid. “We'd threaten, and every time we seemed to get back into it, we gave a couple back.”
Plum was down, 8-6, after five innings, but Central pushed across two more runs to hit double figures. The Vikings iced the victory with three runs in the seventh on M.P. Buckley's bases-loaded double.
Urbanic came in from center field to get the final out in the sixth then struck out the side in the seventh to record the save.