MALDEN, Mass. -- The path Gerry Lambert was cutting into the dirt surface in front of the Xaverian dugout was becoming more distinctive with each pass. Lambert rarely stood still, pacing back and forth feverishly during Wednesday's tight-fisted affair versus Catholic Conference rival Malden Catholic.
Along with the constant pacing, was the hands to the face and the perpetual glares towards the sky. Lambert went though a travel list of expressions throughout the game, but his final one was one of exuberance after his Hawks withstood a furious Lancer comeback in the 10th inning to prevail, 9-8, in a contest that had a little bit of everything.
"We have a long way to go in regards to maximizing our potential as a team," said Lambert. "We know we'll play in other grinding games like this one and also know teams will come back on us.
"What we need to do is come up with a better answer so that we don't have to fail to hang on by our fingernails in the seventh inning and then barely, by a sliver of a fingernail, hang on after scoring five times in the 10th and they get four back in the bottom of the tenth. I mean, what are the odds of what we just watched today? I'm a math teacher and I still can't figure it out."
With Xaverian (4-1) leading for the majority of the contest, that would change during MC's half of the seventh. Down by three runs, the Lancers rallied to tie the game 4-4, forcing extra innings. In the eighth and ninth innings, both teams' offenses stayed silent.
But in the 10th, Xaverian re-awoke at the plate, scoring five runs.
It all started with a Blake DeCarr single and steal of second. With one out, Bryan Hart was intentionally walked. Tim Simoes, a sophomore, then lined a double down the left field line off of reliever Nick Pileio, who came into the game in the fifth and was solid as he held the Hawks scoreless to that point. DeCarr scored on Simoes' hit putting the Hawks back in front. But that was only the beginning.
Walks to Troy Shepherd and Trevor McQuade forced in another run. With the bases still full, Pileio (who allowed 3 hits and struck out 8) walked Noah Sorrento to make it a 7-4 affair. David Fisher replaced Pileio with two out, and quickly got Manny Peguero to hit a chopper to the left side of first base. With Fisher racing over to cover the bag, he dropped the throw which allowed two more Hawks to cross the plate for a five run cushion.
With such a sizable lead, one would figure Xaverian had this one in the bag. Right?
As they showed in the seventh, the Lancers (3-1) put their resiliency to the test yet again in the bottom half of the inning.
Alex Gomes led off the frame by hitting a fly ball to right field that was misplayed by Sorrento putting Gomes on second. Reliever Devon Dimascio, who entered in the seventh, then plunked Jake Horrigan putting an end to his day. Keegan MacEwan, a sidewinder, was brought in and started out by serving up a walk to Jake Witkowski to load the bases.
Another free pass brought home Gomes. MacEwan exited in favor of Peguero, primarily a starter, with two out. The junior righty immediately surrendered an opposite-field triple off the bat of Ethan Harris (three hits), cutting the deficit to one run. Harris' blast hit the facing of the right field fence, missing a grand slam by just a few feet.
With Harris standing on third representing the tying run, Peguero walked Brendan LaVallee, who represented the winning run. With everyone in the ball park on the edge of their seats, Peguero settled down just long enough to fan Ian Steckel and close out this joyride of a game.
"I'm extremely proud of my guys," MC head coach Pat Driscoll said. "There was no quit in them. They battled in every at-bat. This team has a lot of character and that is something you can't coach. It's part of their make-up. Ethan is a guy who leads by example.
"He's our leader and I have nothing but good things to say about him. He works hard every day in practice and because of that he gets results in games. He loves the pressure and those kind of players are hard to find. I also thought Nick pitched great for us. It was an opportunity he has been waiting for and he answered the call today. It was exactly what I expected out of him because he gave us a chance."
The Hawks were able to seize control early. In the third inning, Hart tripled and scored on Simoes' sacrifice fly. After Shepherd reached on an error, he proceeded to swipe second. A McQuade infield single advanced Shepherd to third. McQuade stole second putting both runners in scoring position. But neither stood on base for long.
Shepherd scored on Jake Farrell's SAC fly and McQuade came around moments later on Sorrento's line single for a 3-0 lead.
Xaverian added a solo run in the fifth thanks to another Sorrento run-scoring single. MC got a run back in the bottom of the inning after loading the bases with two out. With Kevin Dolan on the hill in relief, Sullivan shot a single to right which scored Frank Celona to make it 4-1.
"It's like as soon as we get up on someone there is a feeling is like we'll just cruise home," said Lambert. "That's not the way Malden Catholic is. They are a team that always battles and grinds. That is their No. 1 hallmark as a team. So the notion that my team is just going to roll out and get the last three outs is something I think they learned the hard way today. That is not the way it works. You have to go and get the outs because they don't hand them to you."
Xaverian clung to its three run cushion until the last half of the seventh. With one out, Will Montgomery reached on a single. Witkowski followed by grounding into what should have been a double play that instead rolled all the way to fence. Montgomery scored with ease, and Witkowski advanced all the way to third. Dimascio entered in place of Dolan, but walked Sullivan.
With Anthony DeSouza pinch-running for Sullivan, he would steal second thus setting the stage for Harris. The junior, who is receiving some serious looks by a few quality college programs, ripped a 3-2 pitch to center for a two run single to even this tilt.
The Lancers were still in business. With only one out, they now sat on a golden opportunity to win the game. Chris Hopkins followed Harris' hit by walking, while Harris moved to third following a steal. But Dimascio avoided major disaster by striking out Steckel and getting Gomes to ground out to extend this battle.
"It was a crazy game for sure," said Hart, who had two hits and a pair of walks. "When we went up 9-5 I thought we had it but then it got a little nerve-racking but we still managed to survive. That hit by (Harris) in the 10th made the game tight but we hung in there."