Mike D'Acunti had lofty expectations for the St. Anthony's baseball team compared to most. The Friars were predicted to finish sixth in the seven-team CHSAA and the junior catcher hoped to place third.
After getting swept in a three-game series against Chaminade two weeks ago and first-place St. Dominic at 12-1 on deck, it appeared D'Acunti's hopes were dashed. But the Friars continued their surprising season with a three-game sweep of St. Dominic to clinch a top-three seed and a bye into the semifinals.
That allowed St. Anthony's to rest its usual starting pitchers Monday and David Grueneveld, William Massa and Rich Patrizio combined for a 1-0 win over host Kellenberg. D'Acunti scored the lone run on a balk in the fifth.
"We were underdogs," D'Acunti said. "We hoped to finish third and it looks like we will. It's been a successful season so far. We're a young team. St. Anthony's is known for football and not baseball. Other schools in the league are known for baseball."
St. Anthony's (11-6, 11-6 CHSAA) will close out the regular season against Kellenberg (4-14, 3-14) Tuesday, then play in the best-of-three semifinals beginning Monday. Ace Taylor Sperin was rested after starting last Tuesday and pitching three innings of relief Friday.
"It was a composite game," St. Anthony's coach John Phelan said. "Everyone threw late last week. We're in a good position going into the playoffs and wanted to get these guys some work. Guys stepped up and did a fantastic job."
Grueneveld pitched the first three innings and allowed one hit with two strikeouts. Massa, the winning pitcher, allowed two hits in three innings with four strikeouts and Patrizio got the save. A walk, stolen base, an error and another stolen base put runners at second and third in the bottom of the seventh before Patrizio got a fly ball to left to end the game.
"We're playing well right now," Patrizio said. "We're inexperienced, but the seniors and juniors have stepped up. We're good and so are the top teams in the league. We have a good chance to win it."
If people had doubts about the Friars, the series against St. Dominic showed otherwise.
"We said all along there was more here than people were giving us credit for," Phelan said. "That was a big series. At the time, everyone conceded first place to them. Our feeling was to win a game and maybe two to position ourselves for third place. The kids stepped up."