By Laura Amato
Nicholas Perez had a plan.
The St. Francis Prep freshman pitcher wasn’t worried about the runner on first. He was going to get him out anyway.
Perez did just that, securing the final out of the day on Friday by picking off Monsignor McClancy star Quentin Holmes to wrap up a big-time 2-1 victory in the BQCHSAA matchup.
“We knew [Holmes] was fast, so we wanted to just throw over a couple of times,” Perez said. “So what we did was just throw over to get him going back and then the second time we threw it over and we knew we had to get it over there quick. We just knew he was going back and not even really looking.”
Perez’s play was the cherry on top of a slightly strange sundae for the Terriers, who scored both of their runs early in the league matchup.
St. Francis jumped out to a quick two-run lead in the bottom of the second inning, but the squad didn’t use a single hit to get on the board. Instead, the Terriers took advantage of three McClancy errors in the frame, scoring Christopher Conti and Cory Colamusso when the Crusaders couldn’t connect on throws.
“We had to come out playing with a lot of intensity and take it to them,” said senior shortstop Iset Maldonado, who reached on an error in the inning. “When we get that early lead, everyone knows this game is ours. We can’t let them beat us on our field.”
The two runs weren’t perfectly executed, but it was enough for St. Francis to grab the lead.
McClancy answered in its next at bat – Holmes scored the Crusaders’ lone run on a wild pitch – but the Terriers locked in down the stretch, sparked by the dominant effort by Perez on the mound.
The freshman standout settled into a rhythm, entering the game in the fourth inning and giving up just two hits, while striking out four.
“I just wanted to pound the spot and I knew my defense was going to do my best,” Perez said. “Being a freshman, it’s different because everybody thinks they can hit you. So you’ve just got to prove yourself out there.”
McClancy had a chance to get back into the game, aided by the strong pitching of LIU-commit Charlie Neuweiler, who racked up eight strikeouts in six innings of work. Perez, however, never lost his focus and shut down McClancy.
“We know that they’re a great team, so we had to play to their level,” Maldonado said. “Everybody just stepped it up and then we had to keep the cool head and do what we had to do.”
It’s another big-time victory for the Terriers, — who also took down McClancy at home earlier in the season — and the team is looking to keep taking advantage of every opportunity as the playoffs approach.
“We have to take advantage,” Terriers coach Brother Robert Kent said. “It’s a clean slate. We just start all over again.”