Heading to Valhalla: St. John Paul II Lions Down Georgetown to go to Div. 4 State Baseball Championship

LYNN – The St. John Paul II Lions baseball team is heading back to the state championship game for the third straight time.

On an offensive tear of late — and, if not since the early spring — the 24-1 Lions’ nine has heavily relied upon the top half of its order to club out 49 runs in four MIAA postseason games.

The St. John Paul II baseball team mobs Joe Oriola after the Lions captured the state semifinal game from Georgetown. Phil Garceau/Capecod.com Sports

The St. John Paul II baseball team mobs Joe Oriola after the Lions captured the state semifinal game from Georgetown.
Phil Garceau/Capecod.com Sports

But when the young Lions team struggled to find that support from their order, St. John Paul II didn’t panic Wednesday afternoon at Fraser Field, but rather called upon the bottom of the order to produce and pave the way for the a 7-3 victory over Georgetown in the Div. 4 State semifinals.

“We are deep, when those guys get on, because that top half has been carrying us all long, but that bottom half, they make things go,” Lions’ head coach Mark Santos said. “They are electric, when they get on the base paths, we are blessed with athleticism and it’s good leadership across the board.”

“We graduated 10 seniors and these kids have grown up every day, they are no longer young pups, they are ready to go,” Coach Santos added.

With the victory, the Lions will make an appearance in the Div. 4 state title game for the third straight season, this time against Smith Academy, the MIAA West regional champ.

Holding the Georgetown offense at bay while the Lions waited to get the bats going was Lions’ staff ace Joe Oriola. The hard-throwing righty carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, while holding the Royals to four hits overall in the game to pick up his third victory of the postseason.

Using his fastball that was touching the low 80s and dropping in his curveball, the junior struck-out six batters on the afternoon while appearing stronger as the game progressed.

St. John Paul II righty ace Joe Oriola blazed his way past the Georgetown Royals for another visit to the state title game on Saturday. Phil Garceau/Capecod.com sports

St. John Paul II righty ace Joe Oriola blazed his way past the Georgetown Royals for another visit to the state title game on Saturday.
Phil Garceau/Capecod.com sports

“I was just confident. I believe in my defense. I mean I knew they weren’t going to make any errors and they didn’t,” Oriola said. “I just threw strikes and knew they would make the plays.”

Georgetown scored a run in the opening inning off a leadoff walk that was followed by a passed ball, stolen base and RBI groundout, but Oriola settled down to retire the following nine Royals. Georgetown pushed across two more in the sixth, but by that point, the Lions held a 7-1 lead.

“We’ve seen it all along, Joe has just got better and better as the year has progressed and he wants the ball and that’s the most impressive thing,” coach Santos said. “He was getting stronger as the game went on, he was throwing hard to the end, and that’s a good lineup. They have some players over there but I’m proud of him — he’s worked hard.”

Oriola supplied the only hard hit ball the Lions featured during the afternoon, delivering a  two-out, full-count double in the top of the first inning that scored Blake Waters and Kevin Marsh.

From that point on, the Lions plated runs by taking advantage of walks and errors by the Royals’ defense and getting timely base hits from the bottom of the order.

Holding a 2-1 lead in the third inning, Cole Campbell came around to score on Matt Santos’ groundout, jumping over the catcher as his throw was offline.

St. John Paul II's Eric Del Ross (6) slides in ahead of Georgetown pitcher Alex Bornholdt, scoring on a wild pitch. Phil Garceau/Capecod.com Sports

St. John Paul II’s Eric Del Ross (6) slides in ahead of Georgetown pitcher Alex Bornholdt, scoring on a wild pitch.
Phil Garceau/Capecod.com Sports

In the fourth, Jonny Warden earned a one-out walk and came around to score two batters later when the eight-hitter Coleman Fenton laced a 2-2 fastball into right field to give the Lions a 4-1 lead.

“They were opportunistic, we had a lot of sacrifices and were moving guys around and getting them in scoring position. Those hits were timely and that’s the confidence I have in our lineup,” Santos said. “Everyone from one through nine, everyone is taking turns coming up with a big hit and they made a couple of blunders that we took advantage of today and that certainly aided the cause.”

The Lions put the game away in the top of the sixth inning when the they pushed across three runs — again coming on Royals’ errors — to take a 7-1 lead. It proved more than enough for Oriola to work with through the end of his performance.

Eric Del Rosso sent a RBI-single through the right side in the sixth to score Oriola and after loading the bases two batters later, Del Rosso and Keith Campbell scored on a wild-pitch and ensuing throwing error to take a six-run lead.

With Oriola unlikely to see the mound in Saturday’s state title game, Santos has a choice between left-hander Blake Waters and right-handed Kevin Marsh, both who have picked up victories during the postseason.

Waters earned the win against Marion in the Lions’ south sectional quarterfinal victory, while Marsh sealed the sectional finals with a complete-game effort against Mashpee. Either way, Santos has two solid arms to choose from.

“They are both solid, and I’ll sleep on it for a day and see how it shakes out,” Santos said. “I heard Smith Academy won so I’m sure they have someone formidable, but it really depends on what they have for a lineup and all that but either way, both are senior captains and I feel comfortable putting them on the mound.”

— Story written by Phil Garceau, Capecod.com contributing sportswriter. Edited by Capecod.com Sports Editor Sean Walsh.



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