By Matt Williams
---- — LYNN — To play championship baseball, you have to play clean baseball.
Bishop Fenwick didn’t do that last night, committing seven errors while falling in a Division 3 North semifinal loss to Catholic Central League rival St. Mary’s, 8-4.
The semi-final curse continued for the Crusaders (18-7), who have lost in this round of the state tournament in each of the last four seasons.
Last night, the Spartans (17-6) scored in the first and tacked on three more in the second to put Fenwick on its heels. St. Mary’s, which will face Whittier for the D3 North championship Saturday at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, never relented.
Fenwick clawed its way back into the game, and trailed 5-4 with speedy third baseman Nick Bona at third in the bottom of the fifth. Coach Kevin Canty sent him home on the second pitch of senior Joe Levassuer’s at-bat; the lefty faked a bunt and St. Mary’s catcher Dan Donovan received the pitch and tagged Bona on the tag as his slid into the plate.
Bona was called out, quelling Fenwick’s rally and their momentum.
“I thought he beat it, but that’s part of baseball,” said Canty. “I told Nick I’d send him again. At that point, enough bad things had happened to us in the game that I thought we needed to make something happen.”
The Spartans, mindful that Fenwick had come from behind against Stoneham days earlier, extended their lead. They added an unearned run in the sixth to make it 6-4, then scored their first two earned runs of the game on singles in the seventh.
“That was huge,” said St. Mary’s coach Derek Dana. “With a one run lead, there’s a lot of pressure. We talk about finishing what we start and we did a nice job going all seven innings.”
With ace Levassuer having thrown 70-pitches on Sunday, the Crusaders were hoping to stay in game and his him only if needed in the late innings. Starter Tommy Parsons escaped a bases loaded jam in the first, allowing only one run, but ran into trouble in the second when an error compounded a pair of walks as St. Mary’s jumped on top, 4-0.
James Dellisola threw 1.1 innings, allowing only one unearned run, before Levasseur came on with two on in the fourth. The St. Anselm-bound senior allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, then mostly held St. Mary’s down the rest of the way by allowing four hits and striking out five.
“We had a plan for our pitching coming in and for the most part it worked out,” said Canty. “Joe’s on two days rest and we knew we were pushing him to get four innings. We wanted to limit the damage and then get to him and unfortunately we couldn’t do that.”
The seven errors, six of which led to St. Mary’s runs, didn’t help the Crusaders.
“We made very few errors this season and all of a sudden the last two games we’ve made a bunch. I wish I knew what changed,” said Canty. “Give St. Mary’s credit. They capitalized on the mistakes we made and that’s what the tournament is all about.”
Sophomore Clay Yisnscopoulos went the distance for the Spartans, allowing four hits and walking five. He mixed the speeds of the pitches and tempo with which he delivered them, and had Fenwick off-balance most of the night. He struck out the side in the sixth and retired six of the last seven he faced.
Trailing 4-0, Fenwick staged a mini-rally in the third. Eric Razney walked, took second on a balk and scored on a hit-and-run RBI by Jhon Oliviera. Mike MacKenzie (two hits, two runs) followed with a single, Oliviera scored on a wild pitch and MacKenzie came home on an RBI by Gianni Esposito to make it 4-3.
After the Spartans extended to 5-3, MacKenzie led off the fifth with a single. Bona walked and MacKenzie scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Brian Burke. That put Bona on third to set up the failed attempt to steal home.
“I knew coming in that St. Mary’s was on a roll,” said Canty. “They’re a very tough team to play against. They got guys on every inning, they moved them over and they played well.”
Mike Campatelli had the other hit for the Crusaders, and Burke reached base twice on walks. Fenwick was playing its first night game of the season and seemed to struggle with the lights, with catcher Esposito even trying finger nail polish to help his pitchers see the signs.
The 18-wins by the Crusaders were the most by a Fenwick team since 2004, and they Black-and-Gold did earn a share of the CCL Large title.