HYANNIS, Mass. -– Through 10 games this season, the Pope John Paul baseball team has steamrolled the opposition, outscoring its opponents 162-12 while sporting a perfect 10-0 record. But all that would be for nothing if the Lions didn’t come away with a win against Barnstable on Friday night at McKeon Park.
Through two innings the Red Raiders held the upper hand, holding a three-run lead but the Lion bats woke up down the stretch. The Lions took advantage of a Red Raider team that was coming off a 14-day layoff, erupting for 12 hits on their way to a 9-7 statement victory over Barnstable.
“I told them before the game that you are going to get punched, and understand that.” Lions coach Mark Santos said. “When we were down 5-2 I told them two things, one this wont be the final score and two we just need to go out and chip away and win the innings.”
From that point on the Lions outscored the Red Raiders 7-2, clubbing out six extra base hits while getting 4-1/3 shutdown innings of relief from Austin Houlihan.
The win was a necessity if the Lions want any chance of receiving an invitation to the state's inaugural Division 1A "Super Eight" tournament in June. With the Lions feasting on the weak play of the Cape & Island League, the win was pivotal for catching the eyes of the tournament committee.
“Weather or not we are worthy of Super Eight consideration I don’t know, I think we can play with just about anyone in the state regardless of school size,” Santos said. "If the opportunity came, we could welcome it.”
The breakout inning came in the bottom of the fourth when the Lions retook the lead, utilizing the extra-base hit. Brady Jones, Ben Gibson, Mike Young and Collin Russell each registered an RBI double to give PJP an 8-6 lead.
Once the lead was regained, Houlihan was light outs, allowing one unearned run on four hits while fanning three. He relinquished Ben Gibson in the third inning after the senior was roughed up early by the Red Raider bats.
“They got their bats on the ball, it wasn’t his (Gibson) best effort he was leaving a bunch of things up in the strike zone,” Santos said. “I set everything up so that we would have our top three guys tonight and Houlihan came in and I can’t speak of the job he did, his changeup was lethal tonight.”
The Red Raiders pushed across five runs in the first two innings receiving an unearned run in the top of the first and RBIs from Hayden Murphy, Derek Estes Jack Harrington and Griffin Burke. Barnstable was able to the put the bat on the ball all night long, it just happened to be right at the PJP defense.
“I’m proud of the team, they hit the heck out of the ball today,” Barnstable coach Mark Manning said. “We are coming off a 14-day layoff and we were stacked up against them from the start.”
That won’t be the case when these two teams meet again on May 17 at Barnstable. The Lions will come gunning for the Raiders with a possible Super Eight spot at stake, while Barnstable attempts to play spoiler against their cross-town rivals.