St. John’s Jesuit’s baseball team traveled to rival St. Francis de Sales owning an unbeaten record Thursday, and the Titans left licking their wounds after a lopsided 12-5 Three Rivers Athletic Conference loss.
Two-time defending conference champion St. Francis (5-4, 3-0), the preseason favorite, banged out 16 hits, getting at least one hit from all nine spots in the batting order.
The win allowed the Knights to slip into first place in the standings ahead of St. John’s (8-1, 3-1).
“I’d say we came to play a little bit — that was pretty impressive,” St. Francis coach Tim Gerken said. “You never know what to expect in this rivalry game, but I couldn’t be more pleased. Sixteen hits, and there were some balls that were really tagged.”
Knights senior third baseman Tim Organ, Jr., led the potent offensive attack, going 4 for 5 with a double and an RBI.
St. Francis senior shortstop Nate Sifuentes was 3 for 5 with a triple and three RBIs, and junior catcher Braden Durham was perfect in three at-bats with a double and an RBI as the Knights’ Nos. 2-3-4 hitters were a combined 10 for 13.
“When you’re playing a rivalry game, the juices start flowing,” said Organ, who was playing only his third game of the season after participating in a hockey showcase tournament in Wisconsin. “I just went up there with the approach, ‘Just play the game of baseball. Don’t overthink it. It’s just a game.’”
Organ, the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division player of the year, helped lead the Knights to a state runner-up finish during the winter season. He is considering delaying his college plans to play junior hockey.
“The rivalry does bring the intensity up a little bit higher, but other than that you just play baseball,” Organ said. “It was a great team win. You can’t beat your rival if you don’t play like that, and we got the job done.”
St. John’s opened the scoring in the first inning, when Alex Foulks doubled and scored on two wild pitches by Knights starter Ethan Hertzfeld. But St. Francis rallied for three runs against Titans starter McCoy Butler.
Justin Schnebelen drew a leadoff walk, and Organ followed with an opposite-field double to left to set the table for three straight RBI at-bats.
Sifuentes scored Schnebelen with a single, Organ came home on Durham’s sacrifice fly, and Noah Johnson plated Sifuentes with a single for a 3-1 lead.
St. Francis added a run in the third. Durham singled and later scored on Ben Simon’s two-out infield single.
The Knights broke things open to chase Butler in a five-hit, four-run fourth.
Schnebelen and Organ had back-to-back singles, and Sifuentes tripled them home. Durham singled to score Sifuentes, and scored on a single by Eli Johnson for an 8-2 Knights lead. Butler yielded 11 hits and two walks, striking out five before exiting after Johnson’s hit.
St. John’s sandwiched single runs around the Knights’ four-run rally, scoring in the fourth and fifth.
Hertzfeld walked home a run in the fourth, and St. John’s Zach Businger followed Nick Meader’s triple with an RBI double against Knights reliever Carter Smith to cut the St. Francis lead to 8-3.
But the Knights added three insurance runs in the sixth. Durham doubled and scored on Simon’s RBI groundout. Smith singled home Eli Johnson, and later scored on a Titans error.
“This is a huge win,” Gerken said. “There’s no disguising that. And, this was a big week for us. You come back from Florida and you run the risk of being stale, and we got [TRAC wins against] Clay, Whitmer, and St. John’s in one week.”
St. John’s got a two-run homer from Alex Foulks in the seventh.
“They were a very good hitting team today,” Titans coach Craig Meinzer said. “Our pitching wasn’t the greatest, but I know [Butler] is going to come back and he’s going to be better for it. He’ll have a good performance the next time he pitches.
“We’re young still. We only have three guys returning who had any kind of varsity at bats last season. They’re still learning how to hit in counts and hit certain pitches, and it showed today.”
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