Defeat is no lost cause
RedHawks take positives from matchup with Celtics
By Ken Karrson
This setback didn’t live down to its name. If anything, the loss provided a gain.
A couple of months from now Marist coach Kevin Sefcik probably won’t view a similar outcome in quite so favorable a light. However, it’s still early in his inaugural season so it’s safe to say this one was worthy of positive feedback.
That’s especially true since last Monday’s opponent, Providence Catholic, is the reigning state champion in Class 4A. And with proven pitcher Brent Villasenor on their side, the Celtics had a main ingredient for success.
They achieved it too thanks to Villasenor’s ability to handcuff RedHawks batters, but not before Marist hurler Rich Kairis showed he was every bit as deserving of praise for a job well done. In fact, had it not been for a slight relief breakdown the RedHawks and Providence might have gone at it for a long while.
But the Celtics benefited from a hit batsman on an 0-2 pitch, which loaded the bags in the sixth, and then a wild pitch that gave them the only run in a 1-0 final. Marist rebounded from that heartbreaker to beat De La Salle 8-7 on Tuesday after climbing out of a 4-0 first-inning hole, but it was the RedHawks’ ability to go toe-to-toe with mighty Providence that excited Sefcik the most.
“They lost a couple of pitchers, but they’re the defending champs and a lot of those position players are back playing for them,” he said of the Celtics. “It’s good for a team to play everybody you’re going to play in sectionals, and we played pretty well. I saw that Providence scored 15 and 18 runs in the next two games.”
Marist’s best chance to strike against Villasenor was in the first when it placed two runners in scoring position. However, the threat died and the RedHawks (2-1) were hard-pressed to issue any others seeing as how Pat Meehan was the only player to hit safely. One of his two hits was a double.
Kairis pitched 5 2/3 frames and was nicked for just three hits. He walked three and whiffed two.
“I think we’ll be one of those teams that will be a tough one to play later on,” Sefcik said. “It’s a good group. We don’t have the flamethrower [on the hill], but we can throw strikes, play pretty good defense and know how to manufacture runs.”
De La Salle 7
While that last asset was MIA versus Providence, the RedHawks demonstrated their proficiency in that area one day later.
There were certainly some contributors with the sticks -- Brian Wood, for instance, stroked a couple of hits and both Kairis and John Carmody supplied one hit and two RBI -- but Marist’s comeback from that early 4-0 deficit wasn’t only about that. Also factored in was a good batting eye, something shared by several RedHawks.
“We did a good job of holding off on pitches [outside the strike zone] and they walked a lot of guys,” Sefcik said of the Meteors. “At this point we’ve walked more than we’ve struck out -- that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing continue.”
Sefick described De La Salle as “a pretty scrappy team,” but that same tag could easily be attached to Marist, which made its coach “real happy that we kept chipping away at them.” But before the RedHawks could bag the victory, they had to survive one last anxious moment.
Down by one with the tying run aboard, the Meteors threatened to tie -- and perhaps move back in front -- when one of their hitters sent a ball to deep center field. However, Kairis drew a bead on it and hauled it at the fence for the game’s final out.
That made a winner of reliever Brandon Hanik, who worked 2 2/3 innings on a yield of one earned run while recording a strikeout and walking one. Jack Snyder earned a save.
Marty Meyer started for Marist, and although he got roughed up at the outset Sefick kept him in the contest. Meyer rewarded his coach’s faith by settling down and pitching very credibly over the next two-plus frames, doing well enough to elicit some praise from Secik.
The RedHawks traveled to South Carolina for a series of games this week.