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Pisano hits grand slam to fuel come from behind win over St Joe's

Posted Monday, May 08, 2006 by Staten Island Advance

Book the Vikings into heartbreak hotel
Stepinac stuns Sea with five runs in seventh for 5-4 win
Monday, May 08, 2006
By STEPHEN HART

Unbelievable. Shocking. Stunning.

Pick the adjective, and it still won't come close to defining what happened to St. Joseph by-the-Sea against Archbishop Stepinac yesterday at the South Shore Babe Ruth League complex.

The host Vikings held a four-run cushion and starter John Guagliardo was one out away from pitching a three-hit shutout. But he and the rest of his Sea teammates watched in horror as Brian Pisano clouted a grand slam over the centerfield fence to tie the score, and Paul Maiolini followed moments later with an RBI double off reliever John Mulham as the Crusaders posted a surreal 5-4 CHSAA win in Tottenville.

"I'm sick," said Sea coach Gordon Rugg, still shaking his head minutes afterward. "Before that inning, we had played one of our best games of the year. That's baseball -- it can turn on you that quick. But this hurts."

This 180-degree turn blindsided everyone as Guagliardo was in complete control, having allowed only one hit after the first inning. The right-hander opened the seventh innocently enough by hitting Anthony Arrichiello with a pitch, but bounced back quickly by retiring the next two batters on a fly out and pop up.

Guagliardo then plunked pinch-hitter Dom Tufaro, bringing up No. 9 batter Greg Caruso, who singled to right on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases. "It was supposed to be in the dirt, but (Guagliardo) hung it," said Rugg.

The right-hander, who had only thrown 78 pitches entering the frame, still appeared fresh as lead-off batter Pisano worked the count 2-1 before smacking a high fastball just over the 330-foot sign in dead center to shock Sea (6-5 CHSAA) and tie the game.

"I knew (Guagliardo) didn't want to fall behind 3-1, so it was going to be a strike down the middle," said Pisano. "I thought it was going to hit the fence, with the wind blowing in from left."

Mulham came in from third base to relieve, and was greeted by a double down the left-field line by Jason Cusumano. After an intentional walk to set up a force, cleanup batter Maiolini followed with an RBI double to left, putting the Crusaders (7-5) up 5-4.

"I can't remember a game like this," admitted Crusaders coach Pat Duffy. "I just told our guys in the seventh, 'Don't make the last out.' This is our third win in a row, all come-from-behind. I think we have something brewing."

Rugg, meanwhile, was stewing -- not necessarily about the final frame, but the numerous chances the Vikes wasted earlier in the contest, specifically the home fourth.

Already ahead 2-0, thanks to Mulham's two-run double in the third, Sea added to its lead via consecutive singles by Mike Belloni, Frank Balzofiore and Chris Intoccia. And, when Tom DeWaters' sacrifice bunt was botched, it loaded the bases with none out and and chased Stepinac starter Pat Massaroni. Senior right-hander Pasquale Nigro entered, and saved the day for the Crusaders -- inducing consecutive ground-ball force outs at home plate and a grounder to short to hold it at 3-0.

"You have to put away teams in this league. They're too good to give second chances," said Rugg, whose team tacked on an unearned run in the sixth for a 4-0 cushion, but not enough insurance to prevent Stepinac's improbable comeback.

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