SPRINGFIELD >> La Salle senior Andrew Cossetti stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the sixth inning with every person surrounding Ward Field expecting something big to happen.
La Salle had already erased Archbishop Wood’s lead and with two outs, the all-PCL catcher found himself hitting with the bases loaded and facing a brand-new pitcher. It was as big a moment as there could have been but Cossetti isn’t the kind to get caught up in the moment.
He did that as he was circiling the bases, having just sent the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for a grand slam.
“You know he’s going to try and get ahead in the count early and throw strikes, so I was sitting on that first pitch and he just left a curveball a little up and I hit it very well,” Cossetti said. “It was nothing but happiness, especially for my teammates because we worked so hard for this and to see it pay off, it was a lot of fun.”
Cossetti’s slam was the cap on a remarkable comeback by the Explorers, who topped Wood 8-5 Saturday afternoon. Trailing 3-1 entering the sixth, La Salle gave up two outs on a base-running mistake turned double play then exploded for seven runs to completely flip the script.
While Cossetti was the exclamation point, the catalyst came from an unlikely source. Junior Shane Manieri, who hasn’t seen much playing time of late, was called upon to pinch-hit with a man on in the sixth.
He too was facing a new pitcher. It didn’t matter. Manieri ripped the first pitch he saw off the fence in right for the game-tying double and on an alert bit of baserunning himself, came home to score the go-ahead run one batter later.
“Really, I was just focusing on getting a fastball in the zone and driving it to the opposite side of the field,” Manieri said. “Luckily, I got a fastball first pitch. It didn’t go in the gap but it got over the centerfielder’s head so I’m happy about that.”
La Salle’s sixth started out well enough, with Brian Schaub’s hustle forcing an errant throw to make him a leadoff runner. He was lifted for a pinch-runner just before Gregg Sywulak put a good swing on a ball to left. It however, was tracked down by Wood’s Mick Pristas and pinch runner Anthony Basciano had gone too far, making him easy prey to get thrown out back at first.
Jack Pogyor drew a walk and stole second, putting him in position to score when Anthony Cossetti put a single in no-man’s land in shallow center. That was enough to chase Wood starter Kody Cracknell and set the stage for Manieri.
“We haven’t had one of those where we’ve come from behind,” La Salle coach Kyle Werman said. “We’ve shown the ability. We were hitting the ball hard all day but not getting any breaks for it. I was really pleased.
“(Manieri) hadn’t really gotten in the last couple weeks, or at least anything consistent but his BPs have been getting better, he’s driving the ball out of the park in practice and I felt he’s earned that opportunity. To his credit, he stepped up.”
Where La Salle closed with flourish, things were going quite well for the Vikings at the start. Pristas, who had a standout game, led off with a triple and Wood got RBI hits from Mike Ferrara and John Gifford to take an early 2-0 lead on Explorers ace Kade Jones. While Jones labored through the first, throwing 40 pitches on a hot afternoon, he also stranded three runners, runs the Vikings certainly wanted to have.
Wood tacked on another run in the second after Pristas tripled for the second time and came in on an infield error. But that was all the Vikings would get until they had to try an rally themselves in the seventh inning. Jones shut things down to end the second, pitched a 1-2-3 third, then gave way to Hunter McGarvey, who threw four solid innings.
“That’s how it goes, I thought we did some things well today and they obviously put together a big inning there in the bottom of the sixth,” Wood coach Jim DiGuiseppe Jr said. “I was proud to see our guys respond in the top of the seventh to keep swinging the bat, that shows the character of the team, we just didn’t score enough runs.”
Pristas, who was moved into the leadoff spot on Saturday, went 3-for-4 on the day and had two great catches in right field, a diving number to steal a hit from Anthony Cossetti in the fourth and the turned-into-a-double play ball in the sixth. It was just a matter of not scoring more runs early and not being able to stem La Salle’s momentum late that cost Wood.
“They had some really nice swings throughout the day, we were just doing a nice job of making the plays,” DiGuiseppe said. “Early on the game, when we have runners in scoring position, we have to continue to put some pressure on them there. We left too many men on base, particularly in scoring position. That’s baseball.”
Wood scored two runs in the seventh on an RBI double by Antonio Rossillo and an RBI single by Tom Bassetti, but McGarvey kept his cool and got the final out on a groundball to third.
Andrew Cossetti said while it’s a big win, he doesn’t want it to be the season-defining one. Both teams are far from done in PCL play and as the La Salle catcher noted, these two tend to meet in the league playoffs quite a lot.
It was quite the day for the Explorers. They beat a good team and a rival at that and they did with one of the more memorable half-innings any of the players will ever have.
“Once you find that crack in the door and break it open, you never know what can happen,” Cossetti said. “It’s electric. With it being a rivalry game against Wood, it makes it even better. You have to give it to them, they played well and that’s what makes it fun.”
La Salle 8, Archbishop Wood 5
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 210 000 2 – 5 9 3
LA SALLE 000 017 x – 8 7 1
WP: Hunter McGarvey. LP: Sean Hughes. SO-BB: AW – Kody Cracknell 4-2, Hughes 0-2, Dan Trimber 0-0; L – Kade Jones 2-2, Hunter McGarvey 3-1
HR: Andrew Cossetti (L). 3B: Mick Pristas (AW) 2. 2B: Andrew Cossetti (L), Anthony Cossetti (L), Eric Marasheski (L), Shane Manieri (L), Antonio Rossillo (AW)
Multiple hits: AW – Pristas 3-4, Mike Ferrara 2-3; L – Andrew Cossetti 3-4. RBI: AW – Ferrara, Gifford, Rossillo, Tom Bassetti; L – Andrew Cossetti 5, Anthony Cossetti, Manieri