Speed never slumps. Aggressive baserunning almost always pays off. Maybe that's why Gloucester Catholic is 79-13 with two state titles and its sights squarely set on a third since 2010.
Gloucester Catholic beat Holy Cross, 12-5, Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Non-Public South A tournament for a variety of reasons, including great relief pitching by sophomore Mike Mercer and a combined four extra-base hits by seniors Brett Tenuto and Joe Santone.
But the key to the game on a hot and windy afternoon was Gloucester Catholic's relentless offensive pressure. If the Rams were a basketball team, they would be trapping full-court for 32 minutes.
"That's the name of the game for Gloucester Catholic baseball," Rams senior shortstop Robbie Alessandrine said.
Gloucester Catholic (24-4), the No. 3 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, advanced to face No. 1 Bishop Eustace in a clash of old and fierce rivals in the sectional semifinals Friday at the Rams' field in Brooklawn.
Alessandrine was Exhibit A in the way in which his team plays the game.
He walked in the second, stole second and third, and scored on a John Theckston sacrifice fly.
Alessandrine had a bunt single and scored again in the third. He reached on an error, stole another base, and scored again in the Rams' game-breaking, seven-run fourth.
"I haven't been hitting that well," said Alessandrine, who has signed to attend Monmouth University on a baseball scholarship. "So I'm just trying to get on base and manufacture runs any way I can."
Kane, a senior second baseman who has signed with Old Dominion, was 2 for 4 with two steals. He got caught in a rundown in that wild fourth inning, but escaped and scored when Holy Cross was charged with base-runner interference.
"It's the little things that win tournament games," Kane said. "Bunts, steals, pitch counts, keeping the runners from advancing."
McCummings, a senior centerfielder, was 4 for 5 with a pair of bunt singles. He advanced on a balk and scored in the third, stole a base in the fifth, and scored in the fourth when he broke for home on Alessandrine's grounder that was misplayed.
In all, the Rams had six steals, three bunt singles, and two sacrifice flies. Their speed and aggressiveness helped fluster the Lancers into four errors, a balk, and the base-runner interference call.
"It can't always be home runs, especially with the new bats," McCummings said. "You have to put pressure on the other team and see what happens."
Mercer, a hard-throwing righthander, worked 32/3 innings. He allowed two hits and one run - courtesy of a windblown, opposite-field home run - and struck out five with no walks.
Tenuto hit a solo home run and double. Santone had two doubles, one lefthanded and one righthanded, and three RBIs.
But to Holy Cross coach Steve Paolini, whose sixth-ranked team finished a rebuilding season at 23-5, it wasn't Gloucester Catholic's hitting or pitching that was the biggest difference.
Paolini talked about Gloucester Catholic's "baseball acumen" as one of the keys to the Rams' success, in this game and over the years.
"They do the little things," Paolini said. "They put so much pressure on you.
"In high school baseball, at this time of the year, it's the little things that make a difference. Everybody is doing 90 percent. It's the other 10 percent."
Gloucester Catholic 1137000 - 12132
Holy Cross 2300000 - 554
WP: Mike Mercer. LP: Pat Graham. 2B: GC-Joe Santone 2, Brett Tenuto, John Brue; HC-Matt Zizzamia, Jim Hoff. HR: GC-Brett Tenuto; HC-Jon Mackie.
Contact Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports