After nearly firing a pick-off attempt into left field and sustaining some heckling from the St. Mary’s bench, Piedmont catcher Drew Olson assured the Panthers that he wouldn’t throw the ball away.
He kept his word.
Olson kept St. Mary’s baserunners honest all game by routinely throwing behind runners at first, second and third base.
He didn’t pick off any runners through six innings.
But in the bottom of the seventh, with St. Mary’s trailing by a run with runners on first and second and no outs, Panthers’ shortstop and relief pitcher Jeremiah Fielder tried to steal third base. Olson, who is also Piedmont’s star quarterback, gunned down Fielder and stopped the Panthers’ rally dead in its tracks.
Piedmont’s 7-6, come-from-behind victory on Wednesday kept them in first place in the Bay Shore Athletic League. The Highlanders finished the regular season 15-6 overall and 9-1 in the BSAL. St. Mary’s, meanwhile, finished with a 14-10 overall record, 8-2 in league play. Piedmont awaits the outcome of Salesian’s final two games to see who wins the league.
Piedmont struck first with Olson’s no-out first inning single to left that drove in Peter Schneider. Panthers’ pitcher Anthony Miyawaki struck out the next batter and forced two pop-ups to get out of the inning.
St. Mary’s bats got hot in the bottom of the first, as Omar Young rocked Piedmont pitcher Mac Conn with a lead-off home run. A single by Joe Storno drove in two more runs, and Chase Moore’s two-out single drove in another pair.
That was before the Highlanders brought in Brett Webster to pitch. The senior effectively shut down the St. Mary’s offense, allowing just five hits and one run in six innings of work.
“We just wanted to get a lead and then give it to Jeremiah to finish,” St. Mary’s coach Andy Shimabukuro said. “Webster did a great job and we didn’t make the necessary adjustments at the plate.”
While the Panthers bats cooled from fire to ice, the Highlanders chipped away at St. Mary’s lead. Piedmont scored three runs in the second on a double down the left field line by Schneider and Justin Lindenmayer’s double to right. Lindenmayer was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, but not before another run crossed the plate.
Piedmont’s Pete Boyle tied the game at five on a single that drove in Olson. The score remained tied heading into the bottom of the fifth when St. Mary’s Storno drove in Mike Glasshoff for a 6-5 lead.
St. Mary’s Fielder moved from shortstop to the mound with two outs in the fifth inning and struck out three of the first four batters he faced. But the Highlanders found the holes in the top of the seventh and scored two runs that proved the difference in the game.
“I just didn’t hit my spots,” Fielder said of his pitching. “I threw the right pitches, they just weren’t in the right places.”
Fielder, who struck out five batters in 2 1/3 innings, led off the St. Mary’s half of the seventh inning with a stand up double before being thrown out trying to steal third.
“We just didn’t execute,” Shimabukuro said. “We were trying to do too much.”
The loss came on the heels of St. Mary’s 28-0 thrashing of St. Elizabeth’s last week. It also came against a Piedmont team that the Panthers beat 13-3 earlier this season, giving the Highlanders their only league loss.
“I knew they were a good team,” Shimabukuro said. “We knew that we weren’t going to get another game like last week.”
With the win, Piedmont secured a first-round bye in the playoffs while St. Mary’s will likely face Albany or St. Joseph’s in the first round.
“I bet we’ll get to see them (St. Mary’s) again,” Piedmont coach Mike Humphries said. “It’s nice to get a bye so we don’t have to burn a pitcher and we get to play on our home field.”
Fielder also said the two teams would meet again in the playoffs.
“We’re going to do our part,” he said. “We’ll see them again unless they get knocked out.”