NORTHAMPTON Under a foreboding, stormy sky, the Marian Colts squared off against the Spartans of Notre Dame East Stroudsburg for the privilege of entering the District XI Class A finals on Thursday.
Riding high off their recent victory over Tri-Valley in the quarterfinals, the fifth-seeded Colts were eager to prove their worth against Notre Dame, the district's top-seeded team. However, it was apparent not long after the two teams took the field at Northampton High School that the day truly belonged to the boys in green.
The Spartans, now 16-3, dominated the game early on, racking up six runs within the first two innings and ultimately defeating the Colts 10-4. Next week, they face second-seeded Pius X in the district finals at Allentown's Coca-Cola Park.
Notre Dame senior pitcher Robert Solano proved that the Spartans indeed deserve their lofty standing. Despite giving up 10 hits, he was able to hold the Colts to four runs, all of which were scored in the first four innings. Solano also racked up eight strikeouts against Marian.
"Solano shut us down," Jeff Neitz, Marian's head coach, said. "He had a great command of his pitches and did a good job of keeping us off balance."
The combined efforts of Colts starting pitcher Mark Stawick and reliever Ryan Gimbi were not enough to combat Solano's early lead. Together, the duo walked seven batters, five of which went on to score runs for the Spartans.
In terms of offense, Notre Dame's Mario Borbon produced a key single in the first inning that netted him two RBIs and put the Spartans on the board. From there, number two batter Matt Traino crushed a double that brought home Dan Kilroy early in the second inning. That RBI, combined with a wild pitch-induced stealing of home plate by Eric Ashe and Traino's own run, which was given some assistance by a first baseman error, solidified the Spartans' early lead.
The proverbial final nail in the Colts' coffin was pounded in during the sixth inning, when Traino stroked a triple and collected his second RBI of the game. A wild pitch thrown by Marian's Gimbi brought Traino home, finalizing the win.
"We came into this game knowing that Marian plays 'small ball' and we tried to counter that as much as we could, Notre Dame head coach Dan Sciarillo said. "They definitely got their share of hits in, but we didn't let them capitalize on them."
Marian's key offensive plays came from Joe Kloap, who stole home after driving in pinch runner Nick Kweder, and Scott Neitz, whose early first inning double set him up perfectly to score via Stawick's later base hit.
"I'm really proud of these guys," Neitz said. "It's been a really enjoyable and successful year, and I'd like to thank our staff for preparing the players so well."
As Sciarillo and his scrappy, 12-man squad look to challenge the Pius X Royals in the District championship, they can't help but reflect on how far they've come this season.
"At the beginning of this year, we weren't even sure we were gonna be able to field a team," Sciarillo said. "No one gave us any respect this season, but these guys worked their butts off and proved them all wrong."
Marian 110 200 0 - 4 10 3
Notre Dame 330 112 x - 10 6 3
Stawick, Gimbi (3) and Stavinski, Stawick (3); Solano and Carney. W-Solano; L-Gimbi.