By Jon DePaolis
In a topsy turvy, back-and-forth game, Brother Rice continued to show its mettle, coming back from large deficits multiple times to beat Loyola Academy 13-12 on a walk-off hit batsman.
A four-run seventh inning ended with Crusaders left fielder Mike Bolton getting plunked with the bases loaded to bring home in the winning run. And while Bolton was the guy who took one for the team to conclude an unlikely comeback from what was at one time an eight-run deficit, the hero of the game batted earlier in the inning.
Rice's Danny Doligale stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter with runners at the corners and no outs, with Loyola leading 12-10 after a throwing error by the third baseman allowed a run to score. On the first pitch to Doligale, a passed ball allowed the runner at first to get to second, putting two runners in scoring position. Doligale and the Crusaders capitalized on the Ramblers' defensive lapses by hit a slow-rolling, seeing-eye grounder that found a gap between the first and second basemen, allowing both runners to score and tying the game at 12.
“I just looked for something early in the count,” Doligale said. “It was a new pitcher, so I was going to see a healthy amount of fastballs. I was looking for a good fastball to hit, and that’s what I got. It’s a really great feeling — something you dream about.”
From there, an infield single by Dillan Fike moved Doligale to second, and Brett Selke reached on another Loyola throwing error on a bad-hop grounder to loaded the bases with just one out. Bolton (2-for-4, two RBI, two runs) was then plunked — the seventh Crusaders batter to be hit by a pitch in the game — setting off a celebration at first base.
The comeback victory was well-earned. At various points of the game, the Loyola led 10-2, 11-7 and 12-9, the latter at the start of the final inning.
“I just think we’re a team with a lot of senior leadership and a lot of resilience,” Doligale said. “We’ve faced a lot of deficits this year and come back from a lot of them. I think that makes us stronger. Hopefully, though, we’ll get some early leads, and put some teams away.”
Brother Rice coach John McCarthy also credited his team’s resolve, especially after falling behind 10-2 in the fourth inning after a five-run rally by the Ramblers.
“I just think [we] competed until the end, and that’s all you can ask,” McCarthy said. “You’ve got to fight and fight, and take blows and give blows back. It’s a tribute to who they are, and I’m proud of them and their resiliency and ability to handle adversity.
“I think it all boils down to not giving up. I thought they did a good job of battling and not getting caught up in the scoreboard. [That] can throw you off at times, but you’ve just got to compete. I thought they did a good job of just controlling what you can control.”
McCarthy also credited Doligale for his clutch at-bat.
“It says a lot about Danny,” McCarthy said. “I was really happy for him. He’s battled adversity, and to just see him come through when we needed to have it was huge.”
The Crusaders also got contributions from center fielder Kendall Pettis (2-for-3, two walks, two RBI, two runs), Patrick Hayes (1-for-3, RBI, two runs) and Jack Payton (1-for-2, two runs). Payton was also thrice hit by pitches.
With the win, the Crusaders improved to 15-5 on the season. Doligale believes their record, along with their ability to come back later against teams, shows what the Crusaders are capable of this year.
“I think we’re one of the best teams in the state, and I think we’re going to be able to prove that for the rest of the season,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”