All week long in the Phil Lawler Summer Classic, Prospect’s baseball team had a penchant for falling behind early and rallying for wins.
The Knights did it once again Thursday to win the Lake Park Regional and advance to next week’s state tournament.
Prospect fell behind St. Viator by four runs early and rallied to take a two-run lead, only to see the Lions tie it up in the top of the seventh. But senior Jake Cavaini delivered a bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give Prospect a 7-6 win and its first trip to the summer state tournament since 1984.
“Instant classic,” Prospect coach Ross Giusti said. “We’ve been resilient all tournament. They keep coming back. It’s a great group of kids. They just fight, they battle and they all love to compete.”
Ryan Molini started the eighth with a one-out single. Lucas Karz and Pat Donohue then drew walks, sending Cavaini to the dish with two outs.
“I was definitely waiting for him to throw a strike and just looking for something to drive up the middle,” Cavaini said. “(When the ball was hit) I’m thinking uh-oh, because he jammed me. Then I saw it go past the (shortstop’s) mitt and I instantly threw my hand up. People definitely got their money’s worth today.”
St. Viator (16-16) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first. Matt Darling doubled in Kevin Monson and two runs scored on an error. In the second, Matt Levin singled and scored to make it 4-0. But four runners on base and a man thrown out at the plate in the first four innings kept Prospect (25-5) in the game.
“I thought we left some guys out there,” St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. “With how good of a hitting team they are, I was a little worried that it would come back to haunt us, which it did.”
A five-run Prospect fourth turned the tables. The big blow came off the bench. Jack Courtney, whom Giusti said was one of his hottest hitters this summer but was squeezed out of the lineup this week due to defensive formations, pinch hit and lifted a three-run homer to right to give Prospect a 5-4 lead.
“I was going to jump on the first thing I saw,” Courtney said. “Anything close, I was going to swing. I wasn’t sure at first. I’m very glad it got out.”
The score stood at 6-4 in the top of the seventh when Viator’s Dan Sullivan stepped up. He belted a two-out, two-run home run to tie it up at 6-6.
“We felt like if we could get it to Sully, we’d feel good about it,” Manno said. “You talk about clutch hitting right there.”
But it’s Prospect that’s moving on to state.
“One of our goals this summer is let’s get a chance to go play with the big boys,” Giusti said. “You want to play against the best. We reached our goal to make it this summer. We want to carry that over to next week.”