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Cathedral Prep captures crown

In a season full of double-digit victories, St. John’s was the lone league opponent who managed to hang with Cathedral Prep. Eight of the Crusaders’ 14 division victories ended courtesy of the 10-run mercy rule. In two of the six that did not, however, the opponent was the Red Storm.
And through the first three and a half innings of the CHSAA ‘B’ final, St. John’s Prep was leading 3-1. But Cathedral Prep was able to battle through adversity, rallying for a six-run fourth inning en route to their second city crown, 8-4, last Thursday afternoon at St. John’s University’s Jack Kaiser Stadium.
“It feels great,” pitcher Jeffrey Gonzalez said. “Last year this team (St. John’s Prep) was hard to beat. But we got better this year.”
The last two years, the Crusaders enjoyed similarly successful seasons only to fall short in the semifinals, both times to Salesian. There would be no repeat heartbreak in the final this season.
Cathedral Prep took advantage of two St. John’s miscues - a dropped popup in foul territory off the bat of Gonzalez, and Connor O’Mara’s attempted sacrifice bunt attempt that was played into an infield single - in the fourth.
Shortstop Mike Knott ignited the rally with a two-run single to left, tying the score at three, Andrew Viola-Lopez added an opposite-field run-producing single, Matt Anderson sliced another RBI hit into left, and Matt Tantoro drove home two more. “We knew we could come back,” Knott said. “We knew our bats were going to come alive sooner or later.”
“We huddled all together and said ‘we could do this,’” Gonzalez said.
The Dominican College-bound senior was shaky early. He walked four in the first three innings and gave up three runs. “I wasn’t used to a mound with such a high slope,” said the right-hander, who struck out 10 and yielded five hits in the complete-game effort. “I started getting used to it in the final few innings.”
Indeed. He allowed just one hit and walked one in the final four innings, setting down the final six Red Storm batters. “He got stronger and stronger,” Cathedral Prep Coach Billy Oettinger said.
“I wanted to leave the school with at least one championship,” Gonzalez said. “Since the beginning of the season we thought we were going to win, and that’s the way it came out.”
With a miniscule enrollment of 200, Cathedral Prep (18-4) is the smallest school in the division. Oettinger never makes any cuts on his squad, not that he could have this season with only 13 kids trying out. They view their limited roster as a blessing, not a disadvantage.
“Everybody knows each other, everybody gets along,” Gonzalez said. “I like it like that. Everybody knows what happens in our games. Coach looks for people who are aggressive, people who work hard.”

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