St. Laurence shatters St. Rita’s perfect season

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Leading 5-1 entering the sixth inning, it appeared St. Rita was in position to extend its winning streak to 27 games.

St. Laurence, however, had other ideas.

T.J. Marik’s two-run homer ignited a five-run sixth inning as visiting St. Laurence handed St. Rita its first loss of the season Wednesday, 8-5, in a Catholic League Blue thriller.

“That’s how it goes,” Mustangs coach Mike Zunica said. “We were up 5-1 and we had no edge.”

St. Laurence’s win not only ended St. Rita’s 26-game winning streak, it also prevented the Mustangs from taking complete control of the Catholic Blue. The Vikings (22-3, 10-2) sit just a game back of St. Rita (26-1, 11-1), with Brother Rice and Mount Carmel lurking.

“If we don’t win this game, we’re pretty much done in the Catholic League Blue,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said.

The comeback started when Roger Wilson walked and Marik smacked a homer over the left-field fence to cut the deficit to 5-3.

“I was sitting fastball, saw fastball and did what I needed to do,” said Marik, a three-year starting catcher. “We still believed we had a shot to win this game.”

Jake Shepski came on to relieve starter Tyler Halas and was greeted by Mike Miller with a double and bunt single by Kevin White. The first of two errant pickoff throws by Shepksi allowed the Vikings to close to within 5-4.

White then scored the tying run on a fielder’s choice by Sean Burnette. Another errant pickoff by Shepski allowed Burnette to scamper to third and eventually score on a wild pitch for a 6-5 advantage.

St. Laurence tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Marik and solo homer by Miller that made it 8-5.

St. Rita rallied in the seventh. A single by Halas and walk to Nick Goldsmith brought the tying run to the plate. Lotus called on senior Mike Kornacker (2-for-4) to save the game, which he did by retiring the next two hitters.

“They helped us out with a couple of pickoff throws,” Lotus said. “But I’m proud of the way the guys battled back.”

Shepski and Goldsmith drove home runs in the first inning on an RBI triple and single, respectively. Halas helped his own cause with a two-run homer in the third that made it 4-1. Shepski’s fielder’s choice plated another run in the fifth for a 5-1 advantage.

Frank Greco pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Vikings.

“I was just focusing on one pitch, one batter at a time,” Greco said.

“It feels great to win this game.”

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