Baseball: St. Joseph getting used to being 34th seed

Neil Velasquez started two double plays for the Cadets.
Neil Velasquez started two double plays for the Cadets.

The St. Joseph baseball team wears its 34th seed in the Class M state tournament as a badge of honor. The Cadets standing as the last team written in on the bracket line is a constant reminder to how far coach Jim Chaves’ team has come.

After posting its fourth consecutive road win in states with a 4-0 shut out of Northwest Catholic in West Hartford on Saturday, St. Joseph (12-12) has booked a spot in the semifinals opposite No. 3 Waterford High (20-3) on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Palmer Field in Middletown.

Jimmy Evans hit a three-run home run in the top of the fifth inning and Mike D’Agostino shutout the Lions (17-6) with relief help from Evans in the final frame.

“Mike is one of our seniors, graduation day,” Chaves said of his right hander. “He knew what was at stake. He never gets caught up in the moment, so he’s perfect for this situation.”

D’Agostino gave up only three hits in the first five innings, striking out three.

“When you are the pitching with as good as a defense that we have that’s why these games don’t faze me,” he said. “These guys turn two double plays behind me and they always have my back.

“Then Jimmy hits his home run. We couldn’t have written it better. Coming from 6-11 to now is a credit to the entire team’s progression, how we worked together.”

D’Agostino allowed leadoff singles in the first two frames, but both times got the Lions to hit the ball on the ground with Neil Velasquez at shortstop starting double plays turned by Jack Mathews at second.

NW Catholic’s Colby Lytle was as stingy, limiting the Cadets to two hits through five turns at the plate.

Zach Dunkel walked to open the fifth and Jake DeLeo followed with his second single.

Evans stepped in one out later and drove a deep home run to right field through a steady breeze blowing toward left field.

“When Jimmy comes to the plate we expect the ball to be hit hard, driven,” Chaves said. “That three run homer put the pressure on them and took it off us. He’s been doing that for us all year. Not that we have that much pressure as the 34th seed. It’s nice to not have the bullseye on our back.”

Evans said, “I’m always looking to produce, hope I find a gap. I put a good swing on it. We didn’t start off too hot (this season), but we’ve bounced back. We have the semifinals coming up so we’re in a perfect spot.”

St. Joseph tacked on a run in the sixth.

A.J. Guerrero doubled to the fence in right, went to third on a groundout, and scored when Dunkel hustled to beat a wide throw to first on his two-out grounder to the left side.

The Lions worked out a pair of two-out walks in the sixth, but D’Agostino got out of the jam with a roller to Velasquez.

Evans came on in relief with one out and a runner aboard in the seventh via a base on balls.

A lefty, he got a bounce out to Mathews and then put the last out in the book on strikes.