Eight-run inning carries Crusaders past Central Catholic
It doesn’t hold true with the pros but, in high school baseball, low strikes are greater than high strikes.
The demonstration of the principle took place Wednesday at Kahlig Park. Austin St. Michael’s pitcher Brendan McGuigan worked his pitches inside and out, but mostly kept them low in the Crusaders’ 9-2 victory over host Central Catholic (15-12, 6-4).
The three pitchers employed by the Buttons, meanwhile, had difficulty hitting their targets.
“Coming into the game, we were playing very well,” Central Catholic coach Mike Gomez said. “Basically, we were doing just about everything right. Today, didn’t work in our favor.
“We were leaving the ball up. We were making some mistakes with that. When your opponent can tee off on the high stuff, you’re going to have trouble. You’ve got to keep the ball down in high school baseball. That was our game plan.”
The win put Austin St. Michael’s (19-8-2, 7-3), coached by former University of Texas all-American and Boston Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi, in second place in TAPPS District 2-5A behind Antonian. The Apaches (26-6, 8-2) defeated St. Anthony in their district finale Wednesday.
With the loss, which followed key wins over the Crusaders April 12 and Apaches April 16, Central Catholic finished third in the district.
The Buttons will begin postseason play with a 7 p.m. game tonight at Weimer against Houston St. Pius X (17-14). A win would put Central Catholic in the TAPPS state semifinals.
Central Catholic tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning on back-to-back doubles from senior Jonathan Ramirez and sophomore Zack Arambula. Arambula’s double hit on the right-center field warning track and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule shot. Ramirez’s clout also went to the right-center alley.
Arambula went to third on a passed ball and gave the Buttons a 2-1 lead on catcher Manny Martinez’s RBI single.
Central Catholic held the lead for the next two innings, but weren’t able to increase it. Ethan Rodriguez produced a leadoff single and Manny Martinez walked, but both Buttons runners were stranded on base.
“Our only problem was that we were leaving balls up,” Gomez said. “We started walking guys. The ump obviously wasn’t calling strikes up in the zone, but we didn’t adjust. Finally, we gave up those hits.”
In the top of the fifth, the Crusaders’ first two batters reached base. Andrew Butzin was safe on a base hit and Regan Hahn laid down perfect bunt that hugged third-base line for a single. Butzin and Hahn were the first of eight-consecutive St. Michael’s players to reach base.
In fact, both drove in runs later in the inning.
The Crusaders scored eight runs on eight fifth-inning hits, including two-run doubles from Reed Carlton and Grant Gilmore. They finished with 10 hits.
Sophomore first baseman Max Grullon (2-for-4) and senior starting pitcher Josh Godfrey began Central Catholic’s half of the fifth with infield singles. Godfrey beat out a bunt, sending Grullon to second base. He took third on a fielder’s choice from Ramirez, but was the last of eight Buttons runners to be left on base.
St. Michael’s only stranded two. The Crusaders drew three walks and two hit batsmen.
McGuigan and closer Brett Cook combined to retire the last eight Central Catholic batters in order.
In Austin, the Buttons outhit St. Michael’s 10-3 in a 9-4 victory.
“Last time, we threw strikes,” Gomez said. “We got ground balls and we got them out. The big thing is that we kept the ball down and kept them off-stride.”
Gomez stressed that having his pitchers hit their targets would be vital against St. Pius X.
“That’s something we always need to do,” he said. “We’re going to hit the ball and score runs.”