— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) March 16, 2019
ORACLE PARK — For seven innings, St. Ignatius starting pitcher Jack Dyke had dominated. With seven strikeouts to his name, he’d retired 13 in a row before loading the bases in the top of the seventh. Then, with a big breaker, he retired Sacred Heart Cathedral shortstop Keshawn Ogans. He was still down 3-1.
Despite three crucial errors leading to three early runs for the Irish in the Bruce-Mahoney baseball game, Dyke pitched a gem, but as he has several times over the last two seasons, he looked to be coming out on the losing end.
Last season, the Wildcats had lost their Bruce-Mahoney game at then-AT&T Park thanks to a walk-off wild pitch that clinched the annual three-sport series for the Fightin’ Irish. This year, the series once again came down to a winner-take-all showdown in China Basin, and Dyke walked away a 4-3 winner thanks to a walk-off single up the third base line by designated hitter James Adams.
“The last couple years, he’s had so many outings like that, and he ends up on the other side of it,” said first-year head coach Brian Pollzzie. “Just to see the intensity between innings, I feel great for him. He deserves it. He’s worked his ass off.”
Like last season, the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy came down to one final showdown in the spring, with Sacred Heart Cathedral having surprised St. Ignatius on the football field this fall, and the Wildcats taking the designated Bruce-Mahoney basketball game at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley this winter.
On Saturday, St. Ignatius trailed 3-1 headed into the seventh, and after a fielding error by Ogans, a throwing error by reliever Adrian Gonzalez, a two-run booming single by left fielder Colin McCarthy and Adams’s liner over third, they notched their first league win.
“It was, by far, the biggest moment in my sports career,” Adams said. “I’m just looking to finish off what my team’s doing. They had some great at-bats there in that last inning, and in the inning before. Gave me a fastball over the plate, just trying to do my job, stay within myself and drive the ball the other way.”
After three straight seasons of under-.500 ball, the Wildcats have been knocking on the door this season, playing close with Serra earlier this week, and then on Friday, loading the bases before striking out twice and losing to Bellarmine, 2-1.
“I keep on telling them that we’re close,” Pollzzie said. “It was good to see them turn that corner. We’ve been playing some tough teams, and I know how good SH is, and how offensive they are — they dropped 14 on Mitty. They’re loaded.”
Dyke, while victorious, had to contend with a Houdini-like effort from junior lefty Uday Norottam. While his line isn’t incredibly impressive — he allowed three walks and four hits while only striking out two over five-plus innings — Norottam managed to wriggle off the hook several times over the course of the day, getting an inning-ending double play in the fifth, picking off one runner and stranding four over the first four innings.
The only run Norottam allowed came in after he’d left following a walk to lead off the sixth. Reliever Owen Stevenson uncorked a wild pitch on a strikeout pitch to Dyke, allowing him to reach with two outs, and then allowed an RBI single to Nick Glafkides to cut the lead to 3-1.
“Uday, he’s good, man,” Pollzzie said. “His mechanics are so good, and he changes speeds really well. We knew we were going to face him, and we stuck to our approach. That’s something we’ve really been working on. We had a better two-strike approach today.”
Dyke — who lost to the Irish on the football field in October — started out well enough, retiring the first four men he faced. After allowing a walk and a single in the second, he got a would-be double play grounder to first baseman Sean Rinn. Rinn tried to go to second for the twin killing, but the throw went wide, scoring Chris Rodriguez. Diego Padilla then sent a grounder to short, and an error on the turn at second plated another run.
An errant throw on a leadoff grounder by Ogans in the top of the third turned into another run two batters later with a sacrifice fly by Dan Hinderliter, and Sacred Heart Cathedral (5-2, 1-2 in WCAL) took a 3-0 lead.
“He worked his butt off out there for us,” McCarthy said of Dyke. “We’ve been working for October for this one game, it was a big game on our schedule — a huge star.”
St. Ignatius (5-3, 1-2) finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth, when a four-pitch walk to Mario Demera, a two-out stolen base and a wild pitch on a strikeout pitch to Adams put men at the corners for Glafkides. He laced a 2-1 offering over shortstop for an RBI single.
The Irish threatened to open things up in the top of the seventh, when, with two outs, Dyke walked Raphael Cervantes on five pitches, and then sent him to second with an errant pickoff throw to first. He then hit Padilla and Lucas Herrera to load the bases, but fanned Ogans on six pitches to strand three, pumping his fist as he came off the mound.
“It felt good, my stuff felt good, I just happened to hit two guys, which is never good,” Dyke said. “It doesn’t show that your stuff feels good, but when you know it’s on, it’s there. You can keep trusting it to the next at-bat, and I think that’s what I did, and I had a really good at-bat against Keshawn. He’s a really good player. Lot of respect for him.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Colin Clifford managed to reach on a do-or-die try by Ogans. A ringing single by Justin Williamson put two men on and chased Stevenson. Demera then sent a first-pitch bunt back to the mound, but Gonzalez’s throw to third pulled Rodriguez off the bag, loading the bases.
“We needed to find a way to get the leadoff guy on, and put some pressure on them,” Pollzzie said.
In the middle of McCarthy’s at-bat, with the count 2-1, Gonzalez gave way for Jaime Gomez.
“I timed him when he was warming up, in the batter’s box, and first pitch, I saw it and I caught some barrel,” said McCarthy, who blasted a drive into left center for a two-run single to tie things up.
“I know C’s, and I know he’s a clutch guy. I had all the faith in the world in him. I was really excited that we had the guy up,” Dyke said.
After an intentional walk to Dyke, Gonzalez allowed a third-pitch liner over third to Adams to bring the Wildcats storming out of their third-base dugout. As McCarthy rounded third, he threw his helmet in joy.
“That was fun,” Dyke said. “That’s the only way I know how to explain it.”