PEABODY — They say "No pain, no gain" as if the price for success always comes with a little bit of discomfort.

On Saturday, though, the biggest gain for the Bishop Fenwick baseball team came because Richie Pignone finally felt no pain.

Sidelined by an arm injury for the majority of the season, Pignone worked his way back into shape to serve as the designated hitter in the No. 9 spot in Fenwick's Division 3 North first round bout. Coming up with the bases full and his team behind by a run, Pignone stroked a deep double for three RBI and wound up driving in all four runs to send the Crusaders by Stoneham, 4-2.

"See the ball, try to drive it. I just wanted to try to get a hit," said Pignone, who added another RBI double two innings later. "The arm injury killed me a little, and I've been working my way back. It felt pretty natural; I kind of got my swing back."

Now winners of nine straight, No. 4 seed Bishop Fenwick (15-7) will host Saugus in the North quarterfinals Monday at 4 p.m.

Staff ace Christian Loescher, who was limited by soreness in the middle of the year, was more-or-less lights out in five relief innings. He struck out nine, allowed only two hits and retired eight in a row in the middle innings to keep the Crusades in control.

"It's a little ironic that two of our injured guys came back and won the first tournament game for us," said Bishop Fenwick head coach Russ Steeves. "Christian showed a lot of composure. He kept the ball down and (catcher) Keegan (O'Connor) helped him out a lot with his location."

The 20th seeded Spartans (7-15) took a 1-0 lead in the first when Jake Nardone and Wally Conway (RBI) hit back-to-back two-out singles. Fenwick starter Jake Miano was on the ropes, falling behind the next better 3-0 in the count and balking to put two runners in scoring position.

Miano showed his mettle, though, battling all the way back to end the inning with a strikeout. Fenwick's regular season wins leader also threw a scoreless second inning before giving way to Loescher, and keeping the deficit at 1-0 was a turning point in the contest.

"Tournament games add a level of pressure that you can't really prepare for. We felt some in those first two innings," said Steeves. "Jake got us out, though, and he's probably available to come back on Monday now, so that's big."

Cory Bright's one-out single started Fenwick's rally in the second. After a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases, Pignone came up with two down and delivered the bases-clearing knock to put the hosts on top for good, 3-1.

"He was completely shut down most of the year because if there was any pain, we wanted him to rest. He's only been hitting for two weeks," Steeves said of Pignone. "He played our last game of the season and had some big hits.

"He's a lefty with a natural swing — that's why I like him in that spot."

Trying to beat Stoneham for the third time in the last three weeks, Fenwick tried to chip away at pitcher Nick Bamforth (6 IP, 7 K).

The Crusaders sprinkled in eight hits and got an insurance run in the fourth when senior Harrison Brickett sent a double over the center fielder's head, and Pignone followed with a double to right for another RBI.

"It felt awesome up there. Driving in those runs and helping the team feels great," said Pignone. "Christian coming in and doing his thing out there helped us out a lot."

Loescher struck out four in a row between the sixth and seven innings before James Gorman's double opened the door for Bamforth to hit an RBI single. Loescher recovered with his ninth and final strikeout to slam the door on his fourth victory of the year.

O'Connor had a hit — incredibly, his 40th of the season — for Fenwick. Bright had two while Ethan Belt and Trey Delout also singled, Brickett scored twice and Jake Murphy was hit by a pitch and scored.

Fenwick's last trip to the North sectional final was back in 2004, when they it went on to win the state title. If they can win in Monday's quarterfinal against Saugus, it'll be their sixth trip to the semis since then.

Assistant sports editor of The Salem News, blanketing the North Shore with the best coverage you'll find. Football fiend, track guru, seam-head, goaltending aficionado, history buff, stat geek. Allons-Y. #StrikeOutALS

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