After watching his gritty starting pitcher gamely battle out of jams all day, Sacred Heart Cathedral baseball coach Brian Morgan really wanted to keep Sonny Pearce on the mound for the final out despite St. Ignatius having baserunners on first and second and the Irish holding on to a precarious one-run lead.
Morgan wisely went with his head instead of his gut, turning to reliever Cameron Collier, who induced a first-pitch ground out from Scott Erickson to seal the win and preserve Pearce’s gem, a 4-3 Irish victory on Tuesday afternoon at Moscone Field.
"We thought about taking him out after the sixth, but he kept coming up with all the big pitches, so we wanted to leave him in for the complete game," Morgan said of Pearce. "In the end, it was the best decision to take him out for the final batter."
Pearce went 6 2/3 innings, giving up just three runs on seven hits, while striking out five. He also helped his cause at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a run scored.
The Irish provided him with a cushion early on, scoring two runs in the first off Wildcats starter Chris McCaffery.
With Chris Quintana on second and Eric Herrera on third with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, first baseman Dan Ryan smacked a chopper up the middle, just outside the grasp of Wildcats second baseman Dan Polhemus to give Sacred Heart an early 2-0 lead.
The Irish (8-7-2, 2-5-1 WCAL) tacked on a run in the second and another in the third to go up 4-1, but had to hold off a late St. Ignatius rally.
Jake Lawson’s two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh pulled the Wildcats (12-10-1, 4-5-1) within one run, putting runners on first and second. However, the Irish were able to hold on for the victory, avenging a 7-4 loss to the Wildcats in March that decided the Bruce Mahoney Trophy.
"We really needed this win to alleviate some of the pressure on us," said Pearce, whose team still needs to win three more times to be eligible for the Central Coast Section playoffs. "It’s good to get a win against a team that beat us earlier this year, plus it gets us some points in the standings and give us some confidence."