By Jeremy Balan
Like so many baseball teams in The City, the path to success for Sacred Heart Cathedral starts in the batter’s box.
The Irish bats showed up early and cranked out 12 hits to score their highest run total of the West Catholic Athletic League season in a 7-2 win on the road against Riordan.
Six of the Irish hits came with runners in scoring position and they jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning and led 6-1 in the top of the third.
“It was a lot of hits with runners in scoring position. That’s the difference. We didn’t leave them on the bases,” said Sacred Heart head coach Brian Morgan. “We had three or four balls that just found an opening today and on other days they don’t. We’ll take it, believe me.”
Sacred Heart’s Chris Miguel provided the power for the Irish (13-7, 3-7) with two smashed doubles to the warning track in center field.
The first double came in the first inning and drove in the first run of the game, and the second came in the third inning, before Miguel scored on a bloop single by first baseman Manny Serrano. The senior hit another deep fly in the top of the seventh, but the ball was tracked down on the run by Riordan center fielder James Cullinane, again on the warning track.
“It was a great play by the center fielder and that might have been the best one he hit,” Morgan said. “I thought it had a chance to go out, because the wind kinda pushed it toward right center.”
Miguel also threw a complete game as the Irish starting pitcher, and after giving up two runs in the first three innings, only allowed two hits the rest of the way. The right-hander struggled with command through the middle innings, allowed baserunners in each inning and only struck out two Riordan batters, but pounded the strike zone after his last walk with no outs in the fifth.
“I started to throw strikes when I wasn’t rushing through my [windup],” Miguel said. “When I didn’t rush, I got the ball over the plate. I know that if I pitch to our defense, we’re going to do well, so when I started throwing strikes and calmed down — I trust my defense.”
Some of the few bright spots for Riordan (11-10, 2-8) were junior varsity call-up Christopher Edwards and junior leadoff hitter Matt Melendez. Edwards had two singles as the Crusaders’ designated hitter, while Melendez reached base in all four at-bats and scored both of Riordan’s runs.
The Crusaders appeared to ready to go hit-for-hit with the Irish in the bottom of the first when Melendez connected with a leadoff double and Nick Hovland followed with a single, but standout senior shortstop Ismael Orozco grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, injured his hamstring running down the first base line and did not return to the game.
Orozco came into the game leading the Crusaders in batting average, despite missing three weeks earlier in the season due to the same injured hamstring.
“They flat-out beat us and that’s probably the first game we have not played well,” said Riordan head coach Matt Gallegos. “When you lose one of the top players in the league, they have to find a way to come back and they didn’t.”
Sacred Heart also got production out of the leadoff spot, with sophomore second baseman Brett Rasso reaching base three times, including two hits.
“He’s our best baserunner and he gets it all going,” Morgan said. “You put any high school pitcher in the stretch and everything changes, so him getting on in the first and second innings, whether he scores or not, changes the dimension of the whole inning.”
SHC – Chris Miguel doubles, Brett Rasso scores
SHC – Mike Wallace singles, Gino Franco scores
SHC – Nick Nussbaum singles, Wallace and Lou Ortega score
R – Ismael Orozco grounds into a double play, Matt Melendez scores
SHC – Manny Serrano singles, Miguel scores
SHC – Nussbaum doubles, Serrano scores
R – James Cullinane grounds out, Melendez scores
SHC – Miguel grounds out, Jack Harrington scores