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Marc Narducci: St. Joseph Metuchen can hit, too

METUCHEN, N.J. - The scouting report was only partially correct.

METUCHEN, N.J. - The scouting report was only partially correct.

When discussing the strengths of St. Joseph Metuchen's baseball team, the conversation immediately drifted toward the mound. The Falcons were supposed to have one of the deepest staffs around.

That's all fine, but little has been mentioned about the offense, which put on another show Wednesday and eliminated another outstanding team from the state tournament.

This time, it was Bishop Eustace's turn to deal with an offense that has been on a postseason mashing spree. That surge continued with a 12-3 victory over the visiting Crusaders in the South Jersey Non-Public A championship game between the top two seeds.

"We ran into a buzz saw," said Eustace coach Sam Tropiano, whose 22-8 team is ranked No. 5 in South Jersey by The Inquirer.

More like an aluminum barrage.

Eustace managed 10 hits, and shortstop Jim Yezzo hit his 16th home run of the year, the 62d for the Crusaders, so their bats weren't asleep against a fine staff.

The reason that people talk about the pitching is simply that it's very impressive. Winning pitcher Victor Diaz, who allowed two runs in four innings, will attend Mississippi State.

Lefthander Anthony Parenti, who pitched the final three innings, is headed to the Naval Academy. A third player, Phillip Gianakos, has earned a scholarship to Temple.

A team that has three Division I pitchers deserves the attention.

Yet it's the hitting that has been the story in the state tournament. The top-seeded Falcons (21-7) beat Christian Brothers, 11-3; and Notre Dame, 18-5; and put up another 12 runs against Eustace. That is 41 runs against three quality programs.

"Toward the end of the season, we started staying after practice, taking more hitting," said Diaz, whose second-inning grand slam increased the Falcons' lead to 6-0.

What is interesting is that he says Mississippi State wants him only to pitch. And this is a player who homered in each of the three tournament games - a grand slam against Christian Brothers, a three-run jolt against Notre Dame, and Wednesday's grand slam.

Gianakos, also recruited as a pitcher, played first base and hit a two-run homer in the first inning to begin the scoring spree.

In a moral victory of sorts that showed the character of Eustace, St. Joe was ready to 10-run the Crusaders, up by nine with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning. Relief pitcher Eric Elmer then got two short flyouts and a groundout to allow Eustace one more at-bat.

"We didn't want to go easily," Yezzo said.

The Crusaders didn't. They hit well, but just didn't have enough to stop a team that is on a serious offensive roll.

This has been yet another season of accomplishment for Eustace, winning the Olympic Conference National Division, capturing its own Tom Heinkel Tournament, earning a bid and winning a game in the 16-team Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

And, of course, earning a chance to play in the South Jersey championship game.

In addition, coach Sam Tropiano earned his 500th victory and now stands at 502.

So there is a lot to be proud of and take from this season.

The Crusaders were among the best offensive teams in the state, averaging 10.6 runs. They just lost to a team that has seen its offense catch up and possibly surpass its vaunted pitching at the most opportune of times.

Bishop Eustace   0020100 - 3104

St. Joseph Metuchen   244101x - 12120

WP: Victor Diaz. LP: Kenny Fetchko. 2B: BE-John Litz, Kenny Fetchko. Jim Yezzo; SJM-Eric Peterson, Phillip Gianakos, Paul Nyitray. HR: BE-Yezzo; SJM-Gianakos, Victor Diaz, Tom Antuofermo.