By Greg gulas
It wasn’t designed that way, but a failed suicide squeeze in the sixth inning led to the go-ahead run as Cardinal Mooney defeated West Branch, 5-3 in a Division II district semifinal baseball game Thursday at Cene Park.
Kane Durkin threw five strong innings and added two hits, including a double that drove in the Cardinals’ first two runs .
Joe Cunningham picked up the win in relief by retiring all four batters he faced.
“We’ve worked on tight situations all season in practice and today it really paid off for us. With runners on second and third and the score tied 3-3, all I wanted to do was get that last out of the sixth inning,” Cunningham said.
“Our goal before the season was to take it step by step and now that we are in the district title game, we want to look at that game first before we even think of anything else,” he added.
Cardinals coach Al Franceschelli said the senior leadership this year has been amazing.
“We started the season 5-7 but came together as a team when our seniors decided to take charge. We were a team in limbo back then searching for an identity and found it due to that phenomenal senior leadership,” Franceschelli said.
“Kane has been our workhorse all season and threw well today despite some trouble in the sixth inning.
“As for Joe, he’s an up and coming sophomore and someone that I have a lot of confidence in, which is why I didn’t even hesitate putting him in with the game on the line,” Franceschelli added.
Durkin’s two-run double highlighted a three-run uprising in the opening frame for the Cardinals.
West Branch starting pitcher Jeff Vizzuso, a sophomore, then set down 12 of the next 13 Cardinals’ down to keep the Warriors within striking distance.
In the sixth inning, the Warriors used a single, three walks and a two-run double by Brenden Wells to knot the game at 3-3.
In their half of the sixth, three singles by Drew DelSignore, Dan D’Andrea and Durkin loaded the bases and with DelSignore scoring on a throwing error on Harrison Wagner’s failed bunt attempt for a 4-3 Cardinal Mooney (17-11) lead.
Wagner then lifted a sacrifice fly that scored D’Andrea to increase the Mooney advantage to 5-3.
Cunningham then set down the Warriors in order in the seventh inning to earn the win.
“In the sixth inning I tried to overthrow and just couldn’t hit my spots,” Durkin said.
The Warriors ended their season with a 17-12 mark. Vizzuso (6-4) had four strikeouts.
”We wanted to score first and when that didn’t happen it put us in a hole. Once we relaxed, we were all right,” said co-coach Walt DeShields.