St. John the Baptist reliever Joe Reale (no hat) pitched...

St. John the Baptist reliever Joe Reale (no hat) pitched the final four innings to earn the victory for the Cougars on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

First, they bunted into a 1-4-6 triple play. Now there’s something you don’t see every day. Then they surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game to an extra frame.

Yet the St. John the Baptist Cougars were undeterred at St. Anthony’s Wednesday.

Jayden Asencio worked out a bases-loaded walk to force in the go-ahead run in the eighth, giving the Cougars a 4-3 CHSAA win.

"It’s really uplifting," Asencio said after they improved to 5-4. "We struggled at the beginning of the season at 0-3. But we stayed together as a team."

Asencio stepped up with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth against reliever Paolo Zeni after a Christian Alicea single and two walks.

"We put them in tough situations [in practice]," coach Casey McKay said. "This way, when the game comes, it’s not that it’s easy, but they’re able to understand that they’ve been in these situations."

Asencio fell behind 1-and-2. He then took three close pitches that were called balls.

"The 3-and-2 pitch, that was the closest pitch possible," Asencio said. "That could have went either way. Thank God it went mine."

Jason DeCaro allowed three runs, only two of them earned, and six hits in seven for St. Anthony’s (4-7, 3-7). Jack Vallerio made sure he wasn’t the loser, ripping an RBI single off reliever Joe Reale in the seventh to tie it at 3. But the Friars couldn’t finish it off.

"We just haven’t had the ability over the last few weeks to put all the pieces together," coach Paul Parsolano said.

Reale yielded just the one run and two hits across the final four to earn the win.

"In my six years … he’s been one of the best players that I’ve ever coached in the time that I’ve been here," McKay said of the senior pitcher/third baseman.

The Cougars led 3-2 and had runners at first and second with no outs in the fifth. Dom Crema tried to sacrifice, but he bunted the ball in the air. DeCaro caught it for the first out and threw to first for the second out. Then Ryan Wood fired to second to nail Reale trying to get back — triple play.

"It’s super unfortunate," Reale said. "But you just get through that and get on to the next inning."

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