Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
MSJ pitcher Collin Gilbert delivers to the plate during Monday’s game against Woodstock. MSJ earned a dramatic 11-10 victory in eight innings.
By John Shramek
Mount St. Joseph’s Josh Wasilewski had plenty of highs and lows during his team’s game against Division II powerhouse Woodstock on Monday. But his day sure finished on a high — a high fly ball to the left center field gap that gave his team a thrilling 11-10 win in eight innings at St. Peters field.
Wasilewski, who also earned the win in relief, was in a tough situation, facing one of Woodstock’s best pitchers Zach Cole. The No. 7 hitter, who struggled to find his swing in the last two games, got in a 2-2 count with two outs and the winning run represented by Kyle Cassarino just 90 feet away. He looked for and then got a fastball, and he took the pitch and deposited it where nobody could catch it.
Cassarino rushed across the plate with his right first raised in the air and then joined the rest of his team in a mound of celebrating Mounties.
“I’ve been struggling hitting the ball, but I saw it get into the gap and I knew,” Wasilewski said, clutching the game ball.
Just an inning an a half before that, things didn’t look so good for the Division IV Mounties as Woodstock made a ferocious rally that could have broken plenty of teams’ backs.
The Wasps, who were undefeated, entered the inning with good success against Wasilewski in the earlier innings. That success continued in the seventh when a screaming liner just over Wasilewski’s head and an error gave the Wasps two runners in scoring position with their No. 9 hitter, Hunter Balch, coming to the plate. Balch roped the fourth pitch he saw deep to center field where it one hopped into the fence, giving the Wasps their first lead since the third inning, 10-9.
“The one thing we’ve said all along is that this team does battle back,” Woodstock coach Jason Tarleton said.
Cole relieved starter Conor Joyce in the bottom of the seventh and painted the corners, grabbing the first two outs on just five pitches. MSJ leadoff hitter Shane Protivansky, though, reach on a single and then advanced to third on a misplayed ball in right field. Jonah Farrow tied things up six pitches later with a double down the right field line.
Wasilewski stayed on the mound in the eighth and looked like a different pitcher, attacking the zone. He recorded outs on the first three batters he faced, retiring the heart of the Wasps’s lineup with a little help from Farrow on a full-extension, diving catch in center.
“Jonah had an amazing catch. We wouldn’t be here without that,” Wasilewski said.
Wasilewski was fired up as left the mound, screaming with excitement as his teammates poured out of the dugout.
That excitement would soon be topped when Wasilewski stepped to the plate as the fourth batter in the inning.
The game, which was very sloppy by both teams during the middle innings, will be in the back of players’ minds as the playoffs approach, and Tarleton hopes this will be an experience that helps his team mature going forward.
“You have to learn from this because there are going to be more close games to come,” he said. “This is a tough loss, but I hope it helps make us a little more playoff ready. When you’re an undefeated team, you don’t know how to handle losing yet.”
The Wasps scored in every inning except the second, third and eighth innings.
Dougie Avellino and Bradley Lewis were each 2-for-5 with two runs scored.
Joyce went six innings for the Wasps with one strikeout. He surrendered eight hits.
The Mounties did most of their damage in the middle innings, plating four runs in the third and fourth. They grabbed single runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth.
Protivansky was 3-for-5 with four runs scored, and Farrow was 4-for-5 with four RBI. Cassarino and Tyler Billings also had three-hit days. Collin Gilbert started for the Mounties and went four innings. He gave up three runs on three hits.
Woodstock falls to 10-1 and travels to take on Bellows Falls on Wednesday.
MSJ improves to 7-4 and travels to Mill River on Wednesday.
NOTES: Dougie Avellino, who was 2-for-5, recorded the 100th hit of his career this past weekend. He has been a sparkplug in the leadoff spot for the Wasps this season, raising plenty of eyebrows with the kind of impact he brings offensively and defensively, according to Tarleton.
“He is fun to watch because he plays instinctively,” Tarleton said. He’s a throwback player. When he comes to the plate, everybody just feels like something is going to happen.”