Pitcher Elliott Stepanof picked up the win for St. Augustine, which pulled to within a game of Cathedral Catholic in the Eastern League.
Any time, in any sport, when archrivals Cathedral Catholic and St. Augustine play, it’s no ordinary game.
The setting — Petco Park — made Thursday’s Eastern League baseball game all the more important.
And the circumstances — the first meeting between the teams since several Cathedral players were disciplined for breaking school rules while at a tournament last month in North Carolina — put an even brighter light on the contest between the No. 1-ranked Dons and No. 8 Saints.
“I know there are all kinds of rumors out there, but I don’t hear them,” Cathedral coach Gary Remiker said before a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to St. Augustine. “I guess it’s because people don’t ask me.”
The win snapped St. Augustine’s six-game losing streak to Cathedral.
“The bottom line here is that no one was expelled from school,” Remiker said. “There was, however, varying degrees of punishment.
“Some of the kids who aren’t with us today will be back. Some will not. I will say nothing that happened was life altering.”
Several players were scratched off the Cathedral scorecard, including some of the team’s star players. Remiker didn’t want to get into specifics over what the scratchouts meant.
School officials were not available for comment at the game.
“Any time Cathedral plays Saints, whether it’s at Petco Park or Hickman Field, it’s a big game,” Remiker said.
The game was of the utmost importance to the Saints (14-5, 2-2), who could have fallen three games behind Cathedral (14-5, 3-1) in league.
Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, St. Augustine tied the game on a wild pitch, the first earned run of the season in 31 innings against Cathedral starter Brady Aiken.
Tyrus Greene started the Saints’ seventh by drawing a walk. He stole second and third. With one out, pinch hitter Chris Gessell walked and stole second. With two outs, Ryan Herburger was walked intentionally to load the bases, setting the stage for Taylor Ahearn, who worked the count full before taking ball four to force in the winning run.
“I was expecting a fastball right down the middle, and he missed,” Ahearn said of sophomore Drew Finley’s pitch. “I’ve never been in that situation before. I’m sure I was as nervous as he was.
“What’s funny is that I forgot I was up until Coach (Craig da Luz) told me to stay composed.”
Elliott Stepanof was the winning pitcher, allowing just three hits and a first-inning, unearned run.
“You tell yourself this is just another league game, but it was a game we had to have,” Stepanof said. “I tried to keep myself calm and composed. I tried not to match Aiken. I have a good team behind me. I figured we’d find a way to win.”
In Thursday’s early game at Petco Park, Monte Vista (5-14, 2-2) beat Santana (9-9, 3-1) 5-0 in a Grossmont Valley League game.
Senior right-hander Kyle Bedsole threw a complete-game, two-hitter for Monte Vista. Catcher Andrew Poirier had three hits and a pair of RBIs while Austin Caole drove in a pair with a third-inning single.
The loss snapped Santana’s four-game winning streak.
High school baseball at Petco Park:
Western League: La Jolla (10-7) vs. Point Loma (7-7), 1 p.m.
Avocado East League: Escondido (7-6) vs. Mission Hills (10-6), 4 p.m.
Grossmont Hills League: Valhalla (11-8) vs. West Hills (10-4), 7 p.m.
Valley League: Del Norte (11-5) vs. Oceanside (7-10), 10 a.m.
Manzanita League: Calipatria (5-7) vs. Julian (9-1), 1 p.m.
Eastern League: Scripps Ranch vs. (6-11) vs. Patrick Henry (13-5), 4 p.m.