MIDDLETOWN >> With a 9-0 lead in the fourth inning, this was looking like one of those days where Xavier coach Rich Magner could sit back, relax, and watch his team coast into the Southern Connecticut Conference semifinals.
But the Falcons have shown a penchant for giving away big leads this season and, as if on cue, Cheshire rallied for six runs in the fifth inning. Instead of coasting, it was nailbiting time for the Falcons.
Xavier reliever Kyle Wollman, however, got some key strikeouts down the stretch and Alex Parkos and Alex Pia delivered a pair of insurance runs with consecutive RBI singles in the sixth as the Falcons eliminated the Rams with an 11-6 SCC quarterfinal round win Tuesday at Palmer Field.
“I’m pleased with the outcome,” said Magner. “It was a little more sweat getting there than I thought if you’re up 9-0. But (Cheshire) battled back. To be honest, we’re resilient and our kid (Wollman) came in and did a pretty nice job in relief.”
Xavier rightfielder Pat Downey also made a terrific defensive play in rightfield with the Falcons clinging to a 9-6 lead in the top of the sixth. With two on and one out, the Rams’ Cooper Mrowka hit a low liner that Downey caught and fired to second for a double play.
Earlier, Xavier took advantage of three Cheshire errors, including one on a double play ball, to grab a 6-0 lead in the third inning.
“I want to get sick to my stomach to see that number six up there,” said Cheshire coach Bill Mrowka. “There should have been two outs and nobody on. But when we give a team that can swing the bat five or six outs in an inning, what do you expect?”
Laurence Hill paced the Xavier attack by going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI’s. Parkos (three RBI’s) and Pia each had two hits.
Hill and Pia added RBI singles, while Parkos blasted a bases loaded double to center in Xavier’s six-run third inning.
Hill’s two-run triple and Will Garrity’s RBI hit extended the Falcons lead to 9-0 in the fourth against Cheshire lefthander Ethan Lonardelli (6-3).
Cheshire, however, rallied in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs against Xavier starter Sean Carroll. Jason Strollo capped the Rams big six-run inning with a two-run double.
Wes Robertson went 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Rams. Lonardelli had three hits, including a pair of doubles, while Ryan Pierpont, Matt Hickey and Tommy Savino each had two hits for Cheshire (14-7).
“I’ve been preaching to these guys that it’s the little things that matter and we just did not execute them today,” said Mrowka. “But we’ll regroup, take a day off and get back at it and be ready for the state tournament on Monday.”
Xavier advanced to the semifinals for the third time in five years. The Falcons (16-5) will meet top-seed Fairfield Prep on Thursday (4 p.m.) at Yale Field.
Amity faces Jonathan Law in the other semifinal.
“Do I wish we coasted a little more? Of course,” Magner added “But that’s high school baseball. We’ll try it again on Thursday.”
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