By Jeremy Balan
Archbishop Riordan High School only got one hit against Sacred Heart Cathedral starting pitcher Chris Miguel, but that, along with a little bit of creativity, was all they needed in a 1-0 win over the visiting Irish on Tuesday.
After a walk opened the fourth inning, Riordan senior outfielder Greg Ivory lined a double into left-center field. With the go-ahead run at third, Miguel struck out the next batter, then intentionally walked Ismael Orozco to load the bases.
With Miguel limiting the Crusaders’ opportunities, first-year Riordan head coach Jeff Isola gambled. He called on senior Aidan Fitzsimon to bunt.
The ball bounced out to Miguel, who flipped the ball to catcher Joe Cibotti for the easy force out at home, then Cibotti threw to first, where Fitzsimon beat out the throw.
The play seemed routine except for one thing — Ivory didn’t stop at third.
“Once the catcher let go of the ball, I was going,” Ivory said. “Coach makes us run. We do extra conditioning every day. We’re a new and better team this year and all that running paid off finally.”
Instead he stormed toward the plate, and Sacred Heart first baseman Patrick Murphy’s throw home was just late and wide of the mark, allowing the eventual winning run to score.
“He was running all the way around,” Isola said. “The play was right in front of him and it was a heads-up play.”
Even though he received the loss, it was Miguel’s second one-hitter of the season, but it was a familiar face that got the win and a shutout — his cousin Matt Miguel.
Matt, Riordan’s (7-2, 1-1) starter, allowed baserunners in every inning except the fifth, but worked his way out of every jam, including a heart-stopper in the seventh.
At first it appeared as if Matt would be pulled after he allowed a single and two walks in the sixth, and a Riordan reliever warmed up in the bullpen, but Isola left him in to finish the game out.
“He wanted this game and he wanted to close it out,” Isola said. “Pitching against his cousin, he’s going to go as far as he can and it was his game to win or lose.”
Matt worked himself into another jam, allowing two walked runners to reach base with two outs, then cousin Chris, Sacred Heart’s (6-2, 0-2) best hitter, came to the plate.
Isola chose to walk Chris, loading the bases for junior Nick Nussbaum, who flied out to deep right field to end the threat and seal the Crusaders’ first West Catholic Athletic League win of the season.
“I was hoping they would pitch to [Chris], but it was probably a good move that they didn’t,” said Sacred Heart head coach Brian Morgan. “He is our best hitter. He’s a little frustrated, but all he wants to do is win.”
For Chris, who went 1-for-2 at the plate and reached base three times, while striking out seven on the mound, the frustration felt a lot like helplessness.
“I wanted it to be me, in the game and in that at-bat,” Chris said. “I felt so helpless, because I couldn’t do anything. I trust my team, but today we just couldn’t do it.”
With Chris garnering much of the attention in the early season, Matt wanted to make an impression and did, striking out six in the complete-game shutout.
“[Chris] has been getting most of the talk around the league, so I just wanted to make a name for myself and my team as well,” Matt said. “I wanted to finish the game. I came in with a gameplan to go all seven and I did that.”
With the loss, the Irish remain winless in league play, but more ominously scoreless in those two games.
“We have to get to the point where we can make one or two mistakes and it won’t cost us,” Morgan said. “I thought we hit the ball OK, but we just couldn’t get the hit to break through. It’s frustrating, because you lose and there’s a big goose egg up there.”