By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Erik Johnson won for the seventh time this season, and the McQuaid Jesuit Knights used a seventh-inning rally to defeat the Aquinas Li’l Irish, 4-1 in non-league action Tuesday.
Johnson struck out six and allowed one earned run on four hits. Unlike his previous outings, though, the sophomore left-hander struggled with his command. He issued two base on balls along with uncorking a wild pitch and committing a balk in the first inning as Aquinas pushed across their only run of the game.
His coach saw it as an opportunity for growth.
“He definitely didn’t have his best stuff early,” McQuaid skipper Tony Fuller said. “That’s going to happen. He had to battle some adversity that he hasn’t had all year.”
But the 6-4 Johnson was at his best in the third and fifth innings when he stranded a total of five runners. After a throwing error put runners on second and third with one out in the third, the sophomore set down the next two batters on strikes going with the breaking ball to end inning.
Another error contributed to a bases-loaded situation in the fifth. Again, Johnson responded with a pair of punch outs. This time he used the fast ball to end the threat.
“He did a good job,” Fuller added. “He showed that he can come through and still keep us in the ball game which was nice.”
Johnson set down the side in order in the sixth, and the McQuaid bats, which had not connected on consecutive hits through the first six innings, came to life.
Morrie Silver started the stanza with a base on balls. Matthew Blejwas moved the runner with a sacrifice bunt, and Nick Tomei doubled to left field.
“All week we were working on middle away approach,” Tomei explained. “I was just trying to hit it that way, but he left a hanging curve ball. I just jumped on it. I kinda pull the ball a lot. Just got lucky.”
With runners on second and third, AJ Fina connected on a two-strike pitch and delivered the go-ahead hit with a single over a drawn infield.
“The first couple pitches I was trying to find something I could drive out to the outfield, any way to get him in,” Fina stated. “Later in the at bat I had two strikes on me, so I was just trying to put the ball in play, make the defense make a play.”
Silver and Tomei scored on the play. Fina advanced on the throw to the plate, and Danny Maxwell made it a 4-1 game with a single to right field.
“We finally strung some together there,” Fuller said. “Got the job done in the seventh.”
Tyler Cyrus worked a scoreless seventh for the save.
Johnson improved to 7-0. Earlier this season he tossed 15 straight scoreless innings.
Tomei finished 1-for-3 with two runs scored.
Maxwell drove in two with two hits.
Billy Kehrig went 2-for-3.
Silver walked twice.
Max Swartz took the loss. The left-hander struck out eight and walked three. He finished 2-for-3 at the plate and scored AQ’s only run.
Trey Brown walked twice for Aquinas.
McQuaid improves to 14-5 with the win. The Knights travel to Buffalo on Thursday for a rematch with St. Joe’s. The Marauders took the earlier meeting between the two teams, 5-4.
Aquinas hosts Wayne on Wednesday. A 4:30 p.m. first pitch is scheduled.