FAIRFIELD >> Xavier’s stirring Class LL state tournament run came to an end on Saturday.
Fairfield Warde’s Reece Maniscalco stymied the Falcons with a 12-strikeout performance in leading the No. 10 Mustangs to a 3-1 quarterfinal win at Fairfield University’s Alumni Diamond.
“The Cinderella run is over,” Xavier coach Nick Cerreta said. “We were playing do-or-die ball since the last game of the season. We had great pitching and got some timely hits for those games. It’s been a great ride. Getting to the quarterfinals is never easy. We knew we could win and compete and we competed today.”
Maniscalco, a senior righthander, scattered five hits and walked three. His biggest strikeout came with two outs in the top of the fifth when Xavier had the tying runs in scoring position.
“He made some big pitches,” Fairfield Warde coach Brett Conner said. “That’s a tough team right there in Xavier. They deserved to be in this spot. They’re a bunch of fighters. But Reece dug deep in big moments.”
Maniscalco’s counterpart, Falcons senior Scott Marks, also threw some clutch pitches in big spots. Marks, who struck out five while blanking the Mustangs over the final four innings, wiggled out of a bases loaded, one out jam in the fifth when Fairfield Warde threatened to break things open.
“Scotty pitched great for us coming back on short rest,” Cerreta said.
The Mustangs (18-7), who also reached the semifinals in 2014, scored all their runs in the second inning. After singles from John Natoli (2-for-3) and Zavier Espinel, senior catcher Danny DeBartolomeo executed a perfect bunt single to load the bases with no outs.
Bobby Lazar and Owen Buhrendorf followed with RBI ground outs to shortstop Jake Alonzo and the Mustangs had a 2-0 lead.
Senior Joey Deutsch then lined an infield hit to third that made it 3-0.
“They’re an aggressive team,” Cerreta added. “That one inning was the difference.”
Xavier (11-13) battled back in the top of the fifth. Sophomore Luke Garofalo drew a one-out walk and junior Bill Egan singled to right. After Tim Dickson bounced into a fielder’s choice, Alonzo (2-for-4) lined an RBI double along the left field line to make it 3-1.
Maniscalco, however, ended the threat by striking out junior Matt Kyle, who had blasted a double just the inning before.
“We had a chance,” Cerreta said. “We knew runs would be at a premium and when we had our opportunity we needed to cash in.”
Fairfield Warde meets No. 11 Simbsury in the Class LL semifinals on Tuesday.
“It means a lot,” Conner said. “A lot of hard work has gone into it, behind the scenes. It’s a testament to our 10 seniors who have stuck together since Little League. They’re great leaders.”
This was the final game for Xavier’s 10 seniors, who ended their careers with a memorable tourney run as the No. 34 seed.
“I love these guys,” said Alonzo, who will play at Wesleyan next season. “We came close. This was a huge step for our program and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”