MANCHESTER>> It was just another East Catholic offensive outburst on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Class M baseball tournament.
The top-seeded, and No. 1 ranked Eagles pounded out 13 hits, including three home runs in the bottom of the sixth, to beat eighth-seeded North Branford 13-1 and finally get over the quarterfinal hump that’s hindered them the last three seasons.
“This has been a tough round for us,” East Catholic coach Martin Fiori said. “Semis is the toughest round I think to get through, but we’re just happy to be there and just have to play ball.”
The Eagles will play fourth-seeded Sheehan on June 9 in the last stop before the finals at Palmer Field in Middletown on June 12 or 13.
East Catholic has now scored in double-digits eight times this season.
With the game already out of reach in the sixth inning at 8-1, seniors Logan Greene, Josh Zbierski and Mike Piskorz all hit home runs off of Austin Defransesco in their final at-bats at Jim Penders Field.
And they all came with two outs.
“I think the guys were just having a little bit of fun,” Fiori said. “Had a little more confidence and smiles started happening, stress started coming off and just letting them be athletic and have some fun.”
Greene’s was the first of his career.
Clay Felice walked and Tyler Gammie singled to set up Zbierski’s 3-run blast that landed in almost the same spot as Greene’s, over the left centerfield fence.
Piskorz’ went out down the left field line.
“We’re incredible when we get momentum,” Zbierski said. “Once we smell blood in the water we’re pretty much unstoppable with the lineup we have. Anyone can pretty much leave the yard at any time and anybody can hit the ball hard at any time, so that’s kind of how we do it.”
But that wasn’t the only big inning of the day for the Eagles.
In the bottom of the first they got to Thunderbirds’ starter Sean Halligan for five runs on four hits including RBI doubles from Piskorz and Clay Felice.
Piskorz added another double in the third that drove in the sixth East Catholic run.
“This is our kind of baseball,” Greene said. “We’re a hitting team and offensive team.”
A couple mistakes by North Branford in the fourth led to two more runs on a tough day for the shallow North Branford pitching staff.
“It’s been a tough week for us,” North Branford coach Bill Mitchell said. “We’re not really deep in pitching. We have two guys and I tried to come back with my ace on one day rest. He had a bad first inning and then we kind of held it together for a while until that last inning.
The Thunderbirds managed to squeak out a run in the sixth when Will Coleman was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. With two out, Mike Querfield shot a double to left center scoring Coleman. But that’s all the T-Birds could muster.
“We made it to the quarterfinals again,” Mitchell said. “It seems like we make it to the quarters or semis every year and we always get beat by the team that’s going to win it and these guys obviously have an outstanding chance to win it because they’re a good team.”
Jimmy Titus, the recently named Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year, got his first start of the season pitching and was strong.
He went four innings and struck out seven while allowing two hits and no runs on a 70 pitch limit.
“We didn’t have to keep him out there,” Greene said. “But he came out, did his job, got the few quality innings that we needed out of him.”
Tyler Flanigan pitched the last three innings to pick up the old-fashioned save.
North Branford: 000 001 0 – 1 4 2
East Catholic: 501 205 X – 13 13 2
(at Jim Penders Field)
WP: Jimmy Titus, LP: Sean Halligan, SV: Tyler Flannigan.
Batteries: (NB) – Sean Halligan, Austin Defransesco (4) and Xavier Santiago; (EC) – Jimmy Titus, Tyler Flannigan (5) and Josh Zbierski.
2B: (NB) – Mike Querfield, Austin Defransesco; (EC) – Clay Felice, Logan Greene, Mike Piskorz (2).
HR: (EC) – Logan Greene, Josh Zbierski, Mike Piskorz.
RBI: (NB) – Mike Querfield; (EC) – Logan Greene, Clay Felice (2), Tyler Gammie, Josh Zbierski (3), Mike Piskorz (2).
SB: (EC) – Josh Zbierski (3).
Records: North Branford 16-8; East Catholic 22-1.