Blue Dons Live to play Another Day
WHEELING – Given the circumstances, Anthony Antionone would have done the same thing if he had been in coach Tim Provenzano’s shoes.
“If I just watched a kid strikeout twice I would probably have pinch hit for him, too,” Antionone, the Blue Dons’ No. 9 hitter, said.
Given a second chance, Antionone more than atoned in the Blue Dons’ Tuesday victory against Wheeling Central.
The senior beat out a chopper to second base, scoring Ross Comis with the winning run, as Madonna (20-5) lived to play another day in the Class A Region One, Section One tournament at the 1-470 sports complex Tuesday night.
Down in the count, with two outs, Antionone said he kept his approach simple.
“I just choked up on the bat, and wanted to make contact and put the ball in play,” Antionone said. “I’m really not sure what happened. I just put my head down and started running to first base as fast as I could go.”
For the record, he was awarded a hit on the play.
Antionone had been pinch hit for in the sixth inning.
“I told him when I pinch hit for him, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going right back out there on the field (re-entered into the lineup) and you will get another chance,'” Provenzano said. “He knew the situation. That was one heck of an at-bat. He needed to put the ball in play and he did that. That would be one heck of a movie. After striking out twice, after being pinch hit for, he came through when we needed him.”
The Dons got seven strong innings from ace Luca Fuscardo, who struck out eight and walked one. He allowed five hits.
Fuscardo gutted out the final two innings after jamming his thumb sliding into third in the fifth inning, after doubling and scoring the tying run on an error.
“He is a leader, whether it is on the mound or at the plate,” Provenzano said. “He is a tough kid. We needed a good outing and we know with him on the mound we were going to get it.”
Central starter Mario Peroni went the distance, and probably deserved a better fate.
He struck out seven and walked six.
“On my last visit (to the mound) I asked him how he felt and he said he wanted to stay out there,” coach Jimbo Wodusky said. “He said, ‘I want to finish this game for you.’ He’s a senior, he deserved that chance and he had pitched a great game. That was a great game, between two great pitchers.”
He had pitched out of several jams, most notably a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth and he looked like he was going to do it again in the seventh.
After Comis singled, Will Bowser was hit by a pitch and Dom Silvestri walked, Perino got Vince Merico to pop to short and Nick Mazur to first base, both retired by fine running catches by shortstop Nate Bakaitis and first baseman Brian Campbell, who both went to the short outfield after the infield was playing in.
That brought up Antionone, who quickly found himself down in the count.
“I wasn’t going to let my last game be 0-for-2 with two strikeouts,” Antionone said. “I knew that I was going to beat it out when the ball left the bat.”
“He came within one pitch of getting out of that (jam) too,” Wodusky said. “That was the old Baltimore Chop. That’s baseball. It’s a tough sectional and it is really a shame that two very good teams are going to go home. This year, we are one of those teams.”
Central went up 1-0 when Bakaitis singled with two outs in the first and scored when Campbell reached on a two-base error.
Madonna would tie it up when Bowser walked leading off the second, moved to second on an error and scored on Mazur’s single.
Central went back out in front in the fourth. Derek Yocke drew a one-out walk, Fuscardo’s only walk of the game. Pinch runner John McGlothlin went to third on Jeff Gwynn’s basehit and scored when Brian Shaw laid down a perfect bunt between the base line and the mound.
Fuscardo helped tie it again in the fifth, leading off with a double, stealing third and scoring on an error.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Wodusky said. “They fought and battled and that’s all you can ask for. Credit (Madonna). They had some great at-bats, fouled off a lot of good pitchers and kept the pressure on the whole game.”
Provenzano, whose team faces Bishop Donahue today, said he won’t decide on a starter until game time.
“I’m blessed to have five guys I can go with, and I feel confident going to any of them,” Provenzano said. “It doesn’t get any better than a three-game series, and you have to win.”
Madonna has to beat Bishop twice, and Bishop will have staff ace Hunter Kaschke available.