Bosco rocks nation's best pitcher, but loses
Saturday, June 2, 2007
By ART STAPLETON
WEST ORANGE -- Four outs from victory Friday, Don Bosco was poised to do something nobody expected against Seton Hall Prep, especially not with the nation's best high school pitcher on the mound.
Just when it seemed a celebration was imminent, though, the Ironmen watched events unfold that left them in disbelief and ended their State title hopes.
Seton Hall Prep rallied from five runs down in the bottom of the sixth inning before completing a remarkable comeback an inning later with a bases-loaded walk, stunning Don Bosco with a thrilling 9-8 triumph before a crowd of 2,500.
The second-seeded Pirates, ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today, will play top-seeded Immaculata for the North crown Tuesday in Morristown.
"We came out here thinking we could take them and for a while it looked like we would," Don Bosco sophomore Anthony Gomez said. "To go from up 7-2 and lose the game, that takes a lot out of you. We just didn't think it was going to happen, that we would lose this way."
No one packed into the ballpark at Seton Hall Prep could have, not with the way the Don Bosco hitters had their way with Pirates' ace Rick Porcello all game long.
The senior right-hander had given up six runs all year -- Don Bosco scored seven through six innings and tacked another on in the seventh, tying the game before Seton Hall Prep (30-1) went back in front for good in its final at-bat.
Gomez opened the game by smacking the second pitch from Porcello over the fence in right field for a home run. Sophomore Brett Knief later added a solo shot as the Ironmen, No. 1 in The Record's Top 25, collected 12 hits against the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year, the most for any team all season.
For six innings, Don Bosco junior Eric Pfisterer was the best pitcher in the game, keeping Seton Hall Prep's offense in check by changing speeds. It was the most impressive performance of his career.
None of that held, though, once Wyckoff's Steven Brooks laced a two-run single off Don Bosco reliever Jeff Hoffman in the sixth, finishing off Seton Hall Prep's stunning rally that gave the Pirates an 8-7 lead.
"When we were down, it wasn't over for us, not through the 45-minute [lightning] delay, not when they came back right after that and went ahead 7-2," said Brooks, a senior center fielder headed to Wake Forest. "It wasn't going to be over for us until they got the last out of the seventh inning."
Don Bosco (25-2) was not done, either, as it scratched across its eighth run in the top of the seventh when Brandon Boykin scored on an error. Porcello (128 pitches, seven strikeouts, one walk) picked off two Ironmen in the inning and got a comebacker to end the threat, however, setting the stage for more heroics in the bottom of the inning.
"They were ripping my fastball, they're a great hitting team," Porcello said. "We just tried to grind it out, do the best we could to hang in there. Down five runs against a great team like that, there's not much hope, but there's still hope."
By the time Seton Hall Prep junior Mike Martinez of Wayne had drawn that game-winning walk, the Pirates were the ones who were unexpectedly celebrating.
"Any time you lose a game like that, it's hard to take," Don Bosco coach Paul Sessa said. "Our kids played like champions. We got 12 hits off the best pitcher in the country, we just fell one run short."