By Graham Henderson
Stuart Hall High School starting pitcher Ben Carasco was in total control and working on a shutout going into the bottom of the fifth inning against Lowell on Monday. With the game a scoreless tie, the Cardinals needed a spark.
The Cardinals found that spark in the form of a perfectly executed squeeze play to get on the scoreboard and kept the momentum up, scoring four more runs in the sixth to pull out a 5-0 victory against Stuart Hall (1-1) and advance in the Dick Murray Tournament at Silver Terrace Playground.
Cardinals third baseman Josh Vaughan started off the fifth inning with a leadoff triple, but Carasco rallied back, catching Edward King looking for a called third strike. With the pressure on to score, the Cardinals (1-2-1) looked to designated hitter Michael Serra.
Serra did his job perfectly, laying down a shallow bunt near the third-base line, while Vaughan used his speed for all it was worth, racing from third toward home. By the time Carasco was able to grab the ball, it was too late. The squeeze worked, giving Lowell a 1-0 lead.
“I was just thinking ‘I’ve got to get this down, suicide squeeze in-coming,’” Serra said. “We’ve been practicing that, and it showed.”
But the Knights would not go down without a chance to rally back. After T.J. Najera reached first on a fielding error, Carasco proved he’s as good a hitter as a pitcher, with a long line drive over first base. If the ball had stayed in play, Carasco would have had a triple or even a home run. Instead, the ball trickled through a hole in the fence, limiting him to a double, and holding Najera at third.
“There’s an opening over there, and somehow the ball got it,” Stuart Hall coach Eddie Russell said. “Instead of turning into a home run or a triple, it was called a ground rule [double] and brought the runners back.”
After a walk loaded the bases, Cardinals pitcher Jacob Gleason fought his way back from a one-out, bases-loaded hole. Gleason finished off the game for his first shutout of the season, allowing six hits and striking out four.
“I felt like [I] was throwing fine, I just had to bear down and strike some guys out,” Gleason said. “I was able to throw all three pitches for strikes.”
Stuart Hall’s Carasco, who got the loss, gave up three earned runs through seven innings, struck out four and allowed seven hits with no walks.
“He came out, he was ready to pitch and he pitched a hell of a game,” Russell said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have any offense to support it.”
Lowell coach John Donohue was also quick to praise his starter.
“The way our co-captain Jacob Gleason pitched today was fantastic,” he said. “They may have had five or six hits, but we kind of spread them out a little.”
The Cardinals begin Academic Athletic Association play on Wednesday against Jordan, before picking back up with the tournament again on Saturday against Balboa.
“This is a great tournament, I’m glad we’re in it,” Donohue said. “It’s great to be here and do some of the same things we’ve been able to do over the years.”
L — Mike Serra sacrifice bunt, Josh Vaughan scores
L — Nick Magyari doubles, Elijah Saunders and Oscar Gates-Kent score
L — Edward King reaches on error, Magyari and Andy Glickfield score.