Kellenberg understands the significance of poise after winning the CHSAA baseball title last season. After St. John the Baptist responded quickly in the fourth inning on Tuesday, James Dieguez displayed plenty of it.
Dieguez ripped a double just past a diving third baseman in the bottom of the fourth to put the Firebirds ahead for good in a 6-2 victory over St. John the Baptist.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” Dieguez said. “This is a big series and I just wanted to give us the lead.”
St. John the Baptist evened the score at 2 in the top of the fourth on a line-drive single to right by Matt Archer, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Kellenberg’s Jack Delaney lined a single to left to extend the lead to 5-2 later in the fourth. He finished 1-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs.
The Firebirds (8-2) added an insurance run in the fifth on Nick Quatromani’s single.
Kellenberg’s Thomas Paulich broke a scoreless tie in the third with a sharp, two-out, two-run single through the middle. With a runner on third, St. John the Baptist (5-5) intentionally walked Chris Cappas to face Paulich.
Cappas stole second before Paulich came through. Paulich understood the strategy. After all, Cappas is one of the elite players in the CHSAA. But Paulich, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, still was itching to make St. John pay.
“I definitely felt a little extra motivation to put a good swing on the ball and get across a couple runs,” Paulich said.
Firebirds starting pitcher Jason Diaz struck out three and allowed two runs and six hits in five innings to earn the victory. His strikeout with runners on first and second to end the fifth gave his team a jolt as they ran off the field.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I was just focused on doing my job,” Diaz said.
Michael Laskowski pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to close out the victory.
“We’re very confident and looking to repeat as champions,” Paulich said.