St. John's T.J. Lake scores on a wild pitch as St. Francis' pitcher Luke Ketterman tries to make a play on Friday. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Pitching. Hitting. Defense.
The three essentials of winning baseball, and St. John’s had all three Friday night in its 12-3 victory over visiting rival St. Francis de Sales.
That win pushed the Titans to 15-2 overall and a first-place 8-0 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
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St. John’s mound work was handled ably by senior left-handed starter Collin Korte (5-0), who worked the first 5 1/3 innings, and relievers Luke Vollmar and T. J. Lake.
The Titans’ 12-hit offensive attack was paced by senior first baseman Pete Burkett (2-for-3), whose leadoff home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning helped St. John’s answer a Knights’ homer in the top half of that inning by Andy Okuley.
And, finally, where St. Francis (13-6, 5-4) had four fielding errors, the Titans had none.
“We had 12 runs, 12 hits and no errors,” Titans coach Greg Christian said. “That’s a pretty clean game.”
St. John’s grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning with Ethan Kirkman walking and scoring on Mike Barrett’s single, and Lake singling and scoring on a wild pitch from Knights starter Luke Ketterman.
The Titans added a run in the second before Okuley got St. Francis on the board with his homer to left. The Knights made it 3-2 in the fourth after Hayden Huff doubled and Alex David singled.
Titan shortstop Devon Garcia started a 6-4-3 double play, conceding the run, and Korte escaped further damage.
“The key for me is that my mentality has to stay the same the whole game, no matter what happens,” Korte said. “I had to show my teammates we were still in it.”
Added Christian: “That damage control was beautiful. Then, every time they scored, we answered back. But the big play was holding them to two runs in that fourth inning. I liked the way we played tonight.”
St. John’s responded with Burkett’s homer, a one-out double from Jon Freisner, and Garcia’s sacrifice fly for a 5-2 lead.
“After they answered us early on, we did a great job of shutting them down,” Burkett said. “Collin battled for us, and I came up with the [home run]. It just kind of took off from there.”
Korte gave up singles to Nick Lankard and Brady Ansara, and a sacrifice fly to John Williams.
The rest was all Titans, as St. John’s plated six runs on four hits in the fifth innings, and added its final run in the sixth.
“As a pitcher those [rallies] are always good,” Korte said. “It makes my job a lot easier. Our defense is solid and I can always trust them.”
In the fifth-inning rally, Chandler Dippman contributed an RBI double, and Nolan Silberhorn and Kirkman each added two-run singles.
“We weren’t really good defensively, or in the middle of the diamond,” Knights coach Tim Gerken said. “We were behind in the count, and we weren’t making plays. You can’t give [St. John’s] anything, because they’re playing good and they think they’re good.
“When you have that combination, you’re good. I tip my hat to them right now. Hopefully we’re driving to play them for a [TRAC playoff] championship later. That’s what our goal is.”