Sports Information Director
ELGIN, Ill. – The Holy Cross baseball team entered Monday afternoon's matchup with Olivet Nazarene just one loss away from elimination in their first-ever Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) postseason appearance. After seeing an early one-run lead turn into a two-run deficit, the Saints responded with a pair of strong innings to reclaim a 5-3 advantage. With their lead once again faltering into a tie in the top of the ninth, it was the heroics from junior Mike Pizzuto (JR/Sarasota, Fla.) that ultimately put the Saints over the top in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off single to keep their season alive and secure the 6-5 win over the Tigers.
"A great job by our guys staying resilient and focused for nine innings," second year head coach Brian Blondell said. "We gave up the lead twice but never got flustered. Hats off to our guys battling until the end and extending their season for at least one more game."
After a quick start to the game where Jordan Gard (SO/Mishawaka, Ind.) shut down the Tigers in order, the Saints bats then got off to a quick start in the bottom half of the opening frame in Monday's elimination game. Stephen Clancy (JR/Yorkville, Ill.) and Jackson Hallahan (SR/Lester Prairie, Minn.) led off the game with back-to-back singles for the Saints to put the pressure on the Tigers defensively. A passed ball would advance both runners into scoring position before a wild pitch would bring home the first run of the game.
Gard continued to pitch strong in the second inning, allowing just one base runner to reach on a walk, but not letting any harm come from it. It was in the top of the third where the Tigers started to find their zone on offense. After an error by the Saints on defense, the tying run was then sacrificed to second base. Wanner drove in the tying run to make it a 1-1 ball game before Foster homered right after to put the Tigers up 3-1.
The Saints would then get a pair of hits in the bottom of the third, but were unable to bring home any runs. It was in the bottom of the fourth where the Saints began their comeback after Mike Pizzuto and Tommy Goodale (FR/Indianola, Iowa) each reached base safely to open up the inning. A successful sacrifice bunt from Chris Woodruff (JR/Mishawaka, Ind.) then put the Saints in prime position to chip into the Tigers lead. Jackson Hallahan then laced a two-out double to right field to bring in both runners and tie the game at 3-3.
Another quick defensive series for the Saints gave their red-hot bats another opportunity to reclaim the lead. Mike Pizzuto and Chris Woodruff each drove in runs in the inning as the Saints opened up a 5-3 advantage through five innings. A leadoff double capped off with a sacrifice fly, however, would put the Tigers within one run as the top of the sixth came to a close.
With three outs between them and their final game of the season, the Tigers opened up the top half of the ninth inning with a double and quickly moved the runner to third base with the ensuing sacrifice bunt. A sacrifice fly from the next batter all of the sudden had the game tied at 5-5. Olivet continued to threaten in the inning with a pair of two-out singles to have the go-ahead run at second base. The Saints would close out the inning strong with a fielder's choice to head to the bottom of the ninth with the score tied.
After getting the leadoff hitter out, Darwing Ereu reached first base on an error by the shortstop before advancing to second on the single from Jordan Hinton (SO/Granger, Ind.). With the winning run on second base, the Saints had a golden opportunity to end the game before extra innings. Mike Pizzuto did just that; Pizzuto laced a shot to left field that allowed Ereu to score from second base and clinch the Saints their first-ever CCAC postseason victory in walk-off fashion by a final score of 6-5.
Jordan Gard received a no-decision in the outing while tossing 6.1 innings and allowing six hits, four runs (three earned) and striking out two. Darwing Ereu (2-2) picked up his second win on the mound after tossing 2.0 innings and allowing three hits, one run and striking out one.
The hero at the plate, Mike Pizzuto, went 2-for-4 on the day with two RBIs and two runs scored.
"I'm extremely proud of the way the guys responded after a tough one on Saturday," continued Blondell. "With our season on the line they were determined and focused to come back tomorrow. Now we need to come back with the same approach as we will once again be playing for our season."
The Saints (22-32) have survived to face another round in the 2014 CCAC postseason and will return to Elgin, Ill. on Tuesday, May 6 with a 5:00 pm EST matchup against Trinity Christian. Live stats will once again be provided courtesy of Judson University athletics.