Baseball: St. Joseph out slugs East Catholic to gain semis

Aaron Kirby’s three-run home run for a nine-run cushion in the bottom of the fourth inning seemed, at the time, like icing on the cake during host St Joseph’s Class M state tournament quarterfinal game against East Catholic on Saturday afternoon.

It turned out to be the difference-maker, as the No. 12 seeded Cadets held off No. 13 East Catholic 13-11 to advance to the semifinal round for the sixth time in seven years.

Coach Jim Chaves’ Cadets (16-7) will play No. 9 Seymour (17-6)  on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Palmer Field in Middletown.

The Wildcats defeated No. 17 Northwest Catholic, 8-5, in their quarterfinal.

Kirby’s homer capped an impressive four-inning sequence to begin the contest, one in which the Cadets put up three runs in each frame to build a 12-3 lead.

East Catholic (15-8) plated six runs in the fifth and, after the Cadets tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth and were finally held scoreless in the sixth, scored twice in the seventh.

Ben Talbot came on in relief in the seventh and surrendered two runs. With the tying run to the plate he closed the door with a strikeout.

“I was feeling good at that moment," Chaves said of the 12-3 lead, before reflecting on a wild 16-15 win over Montville in the previous round. “But after the game we just had against Montville you have to expect the unexpected.”

The Cadets overcame a 2-0 East Catholic lead in the first with three in the bottom half of the frame.

Stephen Paolini and Jimmy Evans both singled and scored. Four East Catholic errors helped the locals.

Jack Matthews and Paolini both had RBI doubles and scored runs and Evans added an RBI double in the second.

Jake DeLeo drove in one of St Joseph’s runs on a sacrifice fly.

Matthews finished with a pair of doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored.

Paolini doubled, drove in a run and scored three times.

Evans singled, drove in three and scored twice.

Charlie Pagliarini singled, drove in a run and scored once.

Kirby, in addition to his three RBIs on the homer, scored twice.

“We were strong at the end and we were consistent with runs every inning,” Kirby said.

Hayden Gourley, Connor Murphy and Owen Horne each singled and scored a run.

“Offensively, we’ve been tremendous all tournament long,” said Chaves, whose team began the state playoffs with a 12-0 rout of No. 21 Norwich Tech.

“These teams in the tournament, they all swing, they all hit and you can’t take your foot off the gas,” Chaves said. “We just got a couple bigger hits than they did today.”

Evans, who started the game for the Cadets, returned to the mound following a half-hour long delay resulting from lightning in the area which coincided with a loud bolt of thunder that caught everybody’s attention with two outs in the top of the sixth.

The players initially huddled in their respective dugouts, but then engaged in a dance-off during the break as the sun continued to shine.

After Evans got through the inning, Talbot took over for the seventh.

The Eagles did not go quietly as Kyle Darby’s two-run double made things interesting.

“It’s always such a relief after these types of games. They take a couple years off your life,” Chaves said.