Browne's slam lifts Eustace

Bishop Eustace's Devin Smeltzer is greeted by jubilant teammates after his two-run home run in the sixth inning. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Bishop Eustace's Devin Smeltzer is greeted by jubilant teammates after his two-run home run in the sixth inning. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 05, 2014

With the bases loaded and the game tied in the top of the ninth inning, Nick Browne didn't think about the weight of the moment.

Patience was the defining characteristic of his team's performance to that point.

And in his final at-bat, Browne played the role to perfection. He was loose and thoughtful as he walked to the plate. He worked a 3-1 count. Then he effortlessly stroked a fastball far beyond the right-field fence.

It was the go-ahead grand slam in the Bishop Eustace baseball team's 10-6 win at Paul VI on Saturday afternoon in an Olympic Conference National Division matchup.

"I had to slow myself down and make sure I got a pitch to hit," said Browne, who has six home runs. "I got a ball that I could do something with, and I just let my hands go."

The win earned Bishop Eustace an automatic bid in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

Even with a loss, the Crusaders (16-1 overall, 6-1 division), ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, certainly would have earned an at-large bid. The same cannot be said for Paul VI (5-5, 5-1), which pulled out all the stops in a gutsy effort.

"I'm proud of how we came to play today," Eagles coach Patrick Fisher said. "But I think this is why Bishop Eustace is where they are this year. They never say die. This was a great game, and we just couldn't finish the task."

Paul VI's pitcher-by-committee approach stifled Bishop Eustace through the early innings.

Starting pitcher Shawn Semple and Shane Kubrak accounted for five pitching changes through the first seven innings, with Semple, a righthander, being featured against the righty-heavy top and bottom of the Bishop Eustace order and Kubrak, a lefty, being featured against the lefthanded-heavy middle of the order.

The pitching rotation was legal because neither player ever left the game - Semple rotated to third base and Kubrak to first base when they weren't on the mound.

The combination worked, as Eustace was hitless into the sixth inning.

But patience paid off for the Crusaders in several ways.

The team worked 11 walks, on top of being hit by five pitches.

Confidence allowed Eustace to stay patient at the plate.

"We knew we were going to get runs eventually," starting pitcher Devin Smeltzer said. "I just tried to keep us in the game."

Smeltzer recorded the team's first hit, a two-run home run with one out in the sixth inning.

Despite not having his best stuff, Smeltzer battled through six innings on the mound, recording 13 strikeouts and no walks. But he allowed a two-run homer to John Petrongolo in the sixth inning and left the game with his team down by three runs with only three outs left.

Chris Jones tied the game on a liner to right field with two out in the bottom of the seventh, capping a three-run rally.

And Tyler Phillips earned the win in relief, retiring all nine batters he faced.

"We showed a lot of heart today," Eustace coach Sam Tropiano said. "You have to tip your cap to our kids. They just never gave up."

Bishop Eustace 010 002 304 - 10 8 0

Paul VI 100 011 300 - 6 9 1

WP: Tyler Phillips. LP: Matt McKeowen. 2B: BE-Mike Krusinski. HR: BE-Devin Smeltzer, Nick Browne; PVI-John Petrongolo.


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