SENECA — The St. Bede Bruins had a great baseball season, winning its first nine games of the year, taking a 17-2 record into the postseason.
Thursday was not one of those great days.
The Bruins committed five errors in the field, had two runners picked off first base and two more runners thrown out at the plate, dropping the Seneca 2A sectional semifinal to Beecher 5-2.
“Got to give them a lot of credit. We did not play as well as we can, but we did not get the big hits today. We’ve been struggling with the bats lately, just didn’t seem to be in sync,” St. Bede coach John Bellino said.
“We had some chances early and just didn’t execute. We did some things we haven’t done all year. The ones at first (base), I don’t understand. It happens. They executed.”
St. Bede catcher Logan Bima homered with one out in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 1, a blast well over the right field fence.
The next batter, Brandon Pietrowski was hit by a pitch and Jake Postula then hit a bloop single to load the bases with one out. DH Stephen Ebener forced Postula at second and was then picked off first base as the Bobcats escaped a bases-loaded jam.
In the third, Bobby Morrow doubled and Sam Lucas was hit by a pitch. Brad Groleau lined a double off the Irish cloverleaf marker on the right field fence, triggering a Bruin relay around the bases. Morrow slid in safely with Lucas on his tail. The Bobcats executed a 9-3-2 relay to gun down Lucas at the plate.
Beecher used another relay in the fourth, this one via a 7-5-2 connection, to throw out Postula at the plate after a double by Ebener.
The Bruins’ base-running woes continued in the fifth when Beecher’s Zach Aring used the ol’ fake to third, throw to first to pick off Groleau to get out of a bases-loaded jam.
“Those do help. Those are momentum killers and they give more momentum to us, especially when they have runners on third base,” Beecher coach Brandon Dubois said, noting Aring calls the pick-off plays on his own.
Beecher scored three runs on three hits in the fifth, helped by an errant Bruin pick-off play, to take a 4-2 lead. Third baseman Mike Pignatello had the big blow with a two-run double to chase a tiring Bruin starter Damin Smith from the mound.
“(Smith) didn’t have his good stuff. Don’t ask me why. He had plenty of rest. He was able to keep them in bay. You keep a team to five runs you’re supposed to win,” Bellino said.
The Bobcats used three Bruin errors to add a run in the seventh to go up 5-2.
Down to their last out, the Bruins mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Morrow singled and Lucas walked. When the count reached 3-0 on Groleau, Beecher coach Brandon Dubois elected to take the bat out of the Bruins’ No. 3 hitter’s hands. The intentional walk put the tying run on base, but Aring retired clean-up hitter Austin Schwab on a fielder’s choice to end the game.
“That 3 hitter, I thought he was pretty much on everything. I didn’t want Zach to lay one down the middle that he turns on it, maybe he hits a double and two runs score,” Dubois said. “I felt the hitter behind him wasn’t as strong and I decided to put him on, especially when it’s 3-0. I was debating on it when he started the at-bat, but once it got 3-0 I put them on.”
With the loss, the Bruins end their season at 19-3, ending a successful run for the seniors who left their mark on the Bruins’ program. St. Bede will return just two juniors from this year’s team.
“Great season, great bunch of kids. Great seniors. We’re going to miss them,” Bellino said. “Obviously we don’t have too many coming back. Some of the seniors, been with me three years, some of them for two years. They’ve been a good bunch.”
Beecher evened its record to .500 at 14-14, awaiting the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Chicago Christian and El Paso-Gridley in Saturday’s finals.
“At this point records out the window, we’re what 3-0 now, 3-0,” said Dubois, adding it feels surreal to reach the sectional finals.
•Notes: Spring Valley native Ken Colmone, a 1981 graduate of Hall High School, is the head coach at El Paso-Gridley, who faced Chicago Christian in Friday’s sectional semifinal. His Comets handed St. Bede its first loss (5-4) of the year on April 22. Colmone guided the Comets golf team to a State Runner-up finish last fall.