By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul baseball team appeared to be on the cusp of another semifinal Class S berth on Saturday, June 3 as the squad – ranked fourth in the tournament fray – had a three-run, sixth inning edge over No. 5 Housatonic Regional in Bristol.
But the Falcons got into a jam during that fateful frame, saw the visitors load up the bases before one crack of the bat, and a fateful error, changed the outcome of the game for good.
A two-out, three-run miscue in the top of the sixth ended up being the game winning tally for Housatonic as the Falcons fell at home 7-6 to end its trek in the Class S quarterfinal round.
The Mountaineers moved on to the semifinals to square-off against Holy Cross (22-1) with the winner heading for a state title encounter against either No. 2 Lyman Memorial or 2016 Class S runner-up Morgan – ranked sixth this time around in the postseason.
St. Paul Catholic, the defending Class S champions, ended the campaign at 19-6 and almost pulled the event out versus the Mountaineers.
The Falcons senior core of Tom Houle, Zach Parent, Andrew Owsianko, Jack Bator and Wes Lahey all played their final game in a St. Paul Catholic uniform, leaving the program as 2015-16 Class S champs.
The showdown almost resembled a game of human yo-yo with each squad snaring multiple leads, the score going up and down, before the final outcome came to pass.
After just one stanza, the Falcons trailed 1-0 but one frame later, the home team had snared the edge at 2-1.
After three completed frames, Housatonic recaptured the edge at 3-2 but by the completion of four innings, the contest was knotted at 3-3.
And one Andrew Owsianko bomb later – a quick lined shot that the left fielder did not have a chance of running down – St. Paul Catholic captured a 6-3 edge through five tilts before the sixth frame came and went.
That’s when that huge three-run gaffe came into play and the Mountaineers took the lead for good at 7-6.
Both teams did not score over the seventh and final inning as Housatonic hung on to seize an amazing one-run victory.
However, it was anyone’s game from the start as both defenses were clearly put to the test early and often.
The Falcons had Southern New Hampshire University bound Wes Lahey (8 K’s) on the mound and while it wasn’t smooth sailing throughout the showdown, the senior gave his offense a chance to not only break even but go ahead in the game.
But credit the Mountaineers chucker Jacob Shpur as well as he went the distance, striking out 11 while allowing eight hits on the afternoon.
After giving up a run in the top of the first off a wild pitch, Lahey shutdown the Mountaineers in order in the second inning and quickly, the St. Paul Catholic bats brought in two runs.
And this is where the game got really fun.
With runners on in the bottom of the second, thanks to singles by Ryan Greene (2-for-3) and Julian Thayer (2-for-2), Bator grounded out but earned an RBI and when Lahey smacked out a run scoring single – plating Thayer – the Falcons went in front 2-1 through two stanzas.
The third inning was a miserable one for the Falcons as errors led to a couple runs for the Mountaineers and after a quiet bottom of the frame, Housatonic re-grabbed the edge at 3-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Greene smashed out a double to get into scoring position and once again, Bator put the ball into play — making something positive happen off another ground ball as another runner slapped the plate and going into the fifth, it was a brand new game at 3-3.
And then, the St. Paul Catholic offense took center stage in the bottom of the fifth frame.
When Chris Mills reached base off a single and Houle got on via an infield hit, the table was set for Owsianko.
That’s when Owsianko blitzed his three-run homer to left and just like that, the Falcons went up by three, 6-3, and the Mountaineers were down to its final six outs.
But Housatonic regrouped when Lahey allowed a base hit and two straight walks to load things up; the visitors had something going again.
From there, another free pass saw the leadoff runner score and suddenly, the deficit was chopped to 6-4 with the bases still juiced.
And when a fly ball to left was misfielded, the Falcons’ edge became a deficit and the pressure was on the home team to respond, now down one at 7-6.
Trailing by one, that tying run never crossed the plate over the final one-and-a-half innings as the Falcons fell by a 7-6 final ending its season in the quarterfinal round.