The Fordham Prep crowd was on its feet and the Rams’ bench was empty, the team greeting Jack Giannini at home plate. No. 9 hitter Dan Turner had just driven him in, giving the Bronx school the lead.
Momentum was on their side, a chance to move one game away from playing for a spot in the championship game just six outs away. Less than an hour later, Fordham was preparing itself to play an elimination game.
“It,” coach Gary Pettus said, “went pretty quick.”
No. 2 Stepinac rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth off ace Sal Lisanti and reliever Ryan Fedak, pulling out a 5-3 win at Houlihan Park Sunday afternoon.
The Crusaders (16-6) meet No. 4 Monsignor Farrell Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Fordham University, while sixth-seeded Fordham Prep takes on No. 5 St. Peter’s after that in the losers’ bracket.
“I put this loss on myself,” the Bryant-bound Lisanti said. “I didn’t make the right pitches at the right time.”
Handed a 3-2 lead entering the sixth inning, the senior right-hander retired just one of the four batters he faced. Steve Martinez led off with a ringing triple to right-center. Rich Reilly followed with a sacrifice fly. Eddie Martinez doubled off the wall in left and Jackson Markey singled to left. Pettus pulled Lisanti at that point, bringing in Fedak. He promptly allowed a run-scoring single to Greg DiGiacinto and Markey scored on catcher Jesus Jaile’s throwing error.
“We never thought we had this game wrapped up,” Pettus said.
Lisanti said Eddie Martinez’s at-bat was where the game was lost. He had given up the lead, sure, but he had handled the catcher all afternoon, beating him with inside fastballs.
“He was just waiting for it,” Lisanti said.
The Rams (15-9) could’ve held a larger lead entering the bottom of the sixth. Following Sal Annunziata’s game-trying sacrifice fly and Turner’s go-ahead RBI single, leadoff man Mike Maschi belted a fastball into left field. Markey came in on the low line drive, went down to a knee, slid and snatched it out of the air before it hit the turf.
“That was just tough luck,” Turner said.
Fordham is accustomed to this position. The Rams lost the opener of their best-of-three, third-round series to St. Raymond’s, blowing a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning, only to rebound with consecutive victories.
“Last time we had no doubt we would come back the next day and win, which we did,” Turner said. “I think we can do the same thing tomorrow.”
Or as Pettus said: “Been there, done that.”