Matt Prazuch likes to take a walk. So much so that he took 5 of them Wednesday.
And his last one was the best of all. It came with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the 12th to drive in the eventual game-winning running as St. Viator outlasted host Notre Dame 13-8 in Niles.
“I love to walk,” said Prazuch, who scored on three of those walks. “It is just being patient up there and making them throw strikes.
“I was looking for a meatball pitch in my last at-bat. He didn’t give me it, so I decided, what the heck, I’ll just walk.”
After Prazuch walked, the red-hot Andrew Ferrante followed with a 2-run single. Joe Rossi then singled in 2 more runs.
The victory, which was the seventh in the last eight games for the Lions, upped their record 18-12. More importantly, it allowed the Lions to finish the East Suburban Catholic Conference season in a three-way tie for second place with an 11-5 league record.
“What a great way to finish the season in conference play,” St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. “I am extremely proud of them. We were picked to finish eighth in the conference, and to be 11-5 . . . these kids battled all year.”
The Lions appeared to have things in control early as they built a 4-0 lead after two innings.
Roy Pettingill doubled home Prazuch and Ferrante in the first. In the second, Ben Dickey scored on Adam Naliwajko’s double. Naliwajko later scored on an error as the Lions looked dominant.
Notre Dame (12-19, 4-12) then tallied twice in the third, fourth and fifth innings as the Dons grabbed a 6-4 lead headed into the sixth.
Ferrante, who had the game winning hit in the bottom of the 7th on Monday against Notre Dame, came up big again for the Lions as they regained the lead 7-6.
Harry McCollum, who had three terrific defensive plays at first base, led off with a single. Charlie Meyer then doubled to score McCollum. After another walk to Prazuch, Ferrante tripled on a ball that dropped just a foot inside the right-field line to score 2 runs.
“I am just seeing the ball so well right now,” said Ferrante, who was hitting over .650 in his last 7 games. “I have just been sticking to my approach and hitting the ball where it is pitched.
“I love coming up in these situations. It is nice and relaxed and just doing your thing. It is just hitting the ball and hoping for the best.”
Notre Dame then rallied to tie the game at 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh. The Dons threatened to win the game as they loaded the bases with no outs. But Gunner Kay pitched the Lions into extra innings without allowing a ball out of the infield.
Kay was able to pitch out of another jam in the ninth, when the Dons again loaded the bases with two outs. But Kay induced Zach Koziol to hit an easy flyball to left to end that threat.
The Lions appeared again to have the game in hand when they tallied in the 10th. Ben Dickey walked and stole second, and then scored on Naliwajko’s single to right.
But the Dons tallied again in their half of the 10th and had runners on first and second with one out. Again, like Houdini, Kay escaped with and easy flyball out and a strikeout.
“Gunner did a great job of bearing down when we needed him to,” Manno said.
From there, Greg Meyer kept the Dons at bay. He allowed singles in both of the last two innings, but neither runner reached second base.
“I decided to shut things down,” Meyer said. “And our team provided the runs. That is my role here.”
Ferrante had 3 hits and 4 RBI for the Lions, while Rossi, Pettingill, McCollum and Naliwajko each had 2 hits.
“We have talked to the kids about believing in the process,” Manno said. “And we have done that this year. I think they have all bought in and that is why we have done so well.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.