When asked, Tom Cava said that, yes, he was a tad nervous when he stepped to the plate with the game tied and a runner on third in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“You always are in a spot like that,” Cava said.
But more than nerves, Cava had a plan. And that’s where his real focus was.
“Their pitchers were throwing great pitches, a lot of first-pitch strikes. That’s what I was looking for, and I got one. My eyes lit up when I saw it, and I knew it was the one,” said Cava after his walk-off single — a hard-hit ground ball past the third baseman — sealed an 8-7 come-from-behind win for Camden Catholic over visiting Holy Cross in an eight-inning game that lasted almost three and a half hours Saturday afternoon.
“I owe it all to my team for even putting me in this position,” Cava said. “We’ve just done a great job of staying in games this year. Our energy is electric. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen. We’ve just been able to push ourselves, and we’re never out of a game.”
Resiliency has been a theme for Camden Catholic this season. This was the Irish’s second walk-off win in five games, including a win over Washington Township on Monday.
On Saturday, they overcame a 5-0 deficit after Holy Cross’ lineup flexed its muscles early on — and recorded five extra-base hits in the game — including a two-run home run by Dom Farole (1 for 4) in the first inning and an RBI-triple in the second inning by Andrew Paolini (2 for 3).
“This was a great high school baseball game, but we made too many mistakes,” said Lancers coach Steve Paolini. “I thought our pitching was good for the most part, and our hitting was good. We just made too many mental errors. And a lot of that falls on me as the coach.”
Holy Cross (3-3) was plagued by base-running errors and general sloppy play throughout. The Lancers had runners picked off three times. And they coughed up the lead in the bottom of the fifth after allowing a walk and a hit batter with the bases loaded and two outs.
But the difference in the end was Camden Catholic’s ability to perform under pressure.
Reliever Nick Huebel gave the Irish (3-2) three strong innings after entering the game for starter Joe Lisnak with no outs in the fifth inning. He turned it over to Brian Brown, who earned the win in the eighth. Huebel worked his way out of several jams and cooled the Lancers’ lineup until the bottom of the seventh when Holy Cross sent the game into extra innings off a sacrifice fly by Brendan Karamanoogian.
Huebel struck out the next batter he faced. And in his next at-bat, just before Cava in the bottom of the eighth, he blasted a single to left field — his third hit of the day — that nearly won the game.
“It was a great win,” Huebel said. “You have to be resilient when tough times happen. You have to keep pushing through, and that’s what we did today.”
Irish coach Bob Bergholtz said he’s been pleased with his team’s effort so far this season. Saturday was the Irish’s third win, a feat that took them until May 18 of last season to reach.
“A year older, a year wiser,” Bergholtz said. “I think last year was a big learning curve for us. It’s great to see our guys take those lessons from last year and put them into use so far this season.”
Holy Cross 3 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 7 8 1
Camden Catholic 0 0 1 3 2 1 0 1 — 8 13 3
WP: Brian Brown; LP: Andrew Paolini.
HR: HC- Dom Farole; 3B: HC- Andrew Paolini, Tim Petrucelli; 2B: HC- Brendan Karamanoogian, Paolini; CC- Ryan Walsh, Nick Huebel.