WILBRAHAM For Cathedral, it was a lesson of patience.
In a game dominated by pitching early, the Panthers were able to take advantage of Minnechaug's uncharacteristic wildness to beat the defending Western Massachusetts champions in a 6-5 non-league game on May 2.
Cathedral's plate discipline was the difference as the Panthers tied the game at two on a wild pitch in the fifth inning, then took advantage of four walks and a hit batsman in the sixth to plate two more runs to grab a lead it would not relinquish.
"I think we've talked about it in practice and even after some games that we need to be more selective and make the other pitchers work a little more and I think it really paid off today in some key situations," Cathedral head coach Pat Moriarty said. Down 2-1 in the top of the fifth inning, the Panthers sent catcher Rob Escalante to the plate. Escalante drew a walk, then was lifted in favor of pinch runner Alex Caldwell, who promptly stole second, then advanced to third on Josh Coon's groundout to the shortstop.
Minnechaug starter Jason Erhardt then thew ball four to Corey Russell to the backstop and Caldwell took off for home, where he may have been gunned down by catcher Todd Kosel, but the umpire was blocking his view of the plate.
Erhardt was able to escape the inning without any further damage, but relievers Tim Cebula and Joe Noble, were not able to keep the score tied.
After inducing two quick ground outs to start the sixth inning, Cebula lost his command, walking Tim Danehy, hitting Peter Crinella in the back and walking Escalante.
He was then lifted in favor of Noble with the bases loaded, who proceeded to walk Coon and Russell, bringing in Danehy and Crinella and giving the Panthers a 4-2 edge. He then induced a pop up to end the inning without further damage.
At the plate, Noble atoned for his wildness in the bottom of the fourth when he, himself, was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded to cut the lead to 4-3, but he continued to struggle on the mound in the seventh inning.
Crinella led off the inning with a triple and was promptly knocked in by Andrew Noonan with a single to right. After taking second on a balk, Tom Weldon moved Noonan to second with a sacrifice bunt and Danehy's sacrifice fly brought him across the plate, bumping the Panthers' advantage to 6-3.
But the Falcons refused to go down easy.
Greg Heineman led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk off of Danehy, who relieved starter Mike Krupczak after six strong innings. After a Kevin White strikeout, Kevin Baker joined him on base with a single to left.
Josh Owczarski flew to left for the second out of the inning, but Bryan Goosens launched a double to deep left center to drive in both base runners and make it a one-run game, but Todd Kosel's grounder to short couldn't find its way through the hole and Crinella gunned him down for the final out.
Krupczak was solid in the win, allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked just one and struck out five.
"Krupczak did really well today. He changed speeds and kept these guys off balance," Moriarty said. "They have a nice lineup and he did just enough to get us a win today."
His counterpart Erhardt also pitched well, allowing two runs on four hits over five innings. He walked four while striking out four.
Crinella went 2-for-3 at the plate for the Panthers with a double, a triple and two runs scored. Russell was 1-for-2 with two walks, a double and an RBI, while Noonan went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base. Cullen Geary and Coon also drove in runs.
Goosens led Minnechaug's offense with a 2-for-3 day, including a double and two RBIs.