Nick Bialorucki was hit by an 0-2 pitch from Waite's David Quiroga with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but it was Quiroga who felt the pain three pitches later in last night's City League baseball championship game.
That's when St. Francis de Sales senior third baseman, Jordan Lonchyna, delivered a game-winning double to the gap in right-center to plate Bialorucki for a 5-4 victory by the Knights (17-5) before a crowd estimated at 750 at Scott Park.
“It was a great environment and a tremendous game,” said 30th-year Knight coach Don Kober. “Since Danny [coach Clayton] has been at Waite, we have had some tremendous games right down to the end, and this was another one. We've been lucky enough to come up on the good side. We survived.”
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For Lonchyna, also an all-district football linebacker, it capped a (playoff) most valuable player performance in the last athletic act of his prep career.
He followed a 2-for-4 effort in his team's 5-2 semifinal win over St. John's Jesuit Monday with a 3-for-3 outing against the defending CL champion Indians (16-9).
“There's not a better way to go out, especially with baseball being my favorite sport,” Lonchyna said. “I was surprised he threw me a fastball there. I thought I was going to see all curveballs, but he threw the fastball and I jumped on it.”
Waite scored a run in the first inning on a pair of singles and two Knight errors, but left the bases loaded. Waite, like St. John's Monday, stranded 10 runners.
“We hit some balls early hard, but right at people,” Clayton said, “and they got a couple flares that fell. We had our opportunities early with bases loaded, but we didn't get that one or two-out hit to drive 'em in.”
Lonchyna answered with a two-out solo home run over the 370-foot mark in right-center in the bottom half.
“I like to come to the park and see the wind blowing out,” Kober said of Lonchyna, “because he's going to do some damage on those days.”
The Knights went up 4-1 in the third against Quiroga, who battled through the elbow soreness which kept him from throwing in Waite's 3-1 semifinal win over Start.
Dustin Szenderski led off with a double to right-center, and Scott Gunn followed with a two-run homer to right. Lonchyna singled with one out and later scored on Knight starting pitcher Tom Gerken's single.
Gerken was chased in the fourth, which started with the Indians loading the bases without hitting a ball out of the infield. Shortstop Bialorucki's error was followed by Matt Grigson's infield single and a well-placed bunt single by Vinny Collins.
Bialorucki traded positions with Gerken and yielded an RBI single to left to Brad Freyer, fanned Sean Scharer, and gave up RBI singles to Tony Guerra (3 for 4) and Quiroga to tie things 4-4 with one out. But Waite again left the bases loaded.
The rest was up to Knight reliever Jared Brown, who replaced Bialorucki with two out in the sixth, and Lonchyna, who walked in his other plate appearance in the fifth.
Bialorucki made a diving grab to his left on Carl Markowski's hard two-out grounder with two runners aboard. His throw got Markowski by an eyelash.
“This is the last thing I'm doing as a senior and I wanted to play my heart out and leave it all on the field,” Bialorucki said. “I think I did my best there. This game was fun and I don't think you could've asked for a better ending.”
Chad Hornyak, who three-hit Start Monday, pitched three scoreless, one-hit innings (fourth through sixth).
“Three weeks ago we went through a rough period, lost a couple games and got knocked out of the tournament,” Kober said. “We set a challenge that we wanted to be the best team possible the rest of the season. I think we did that.”