WEST LONG BRANCH - St. Rose may have ended one win short of its goal on Wednesday, but the young Purple Roses showed they may have the ingredients to come back and finish the job next season.

An underdog St. Rose squad fell in an early four-run hole but rallied to tie the game before a five-run inning resulted in a 9-4 loss to perennial power Gloucester Catholic in the NJSIAA Non-Public South B championship game at Monmouth University.

Gloucester Catholic ended a great season by St. Rose to win its first sectional title in four years. (Photo by Scott Stump)
Gloucester Catholic ended a great season by St. Rose to win its first sectional title in four years. (Photo by Scott Stump)

"I was happy that they kept fighting," first-year St. Rose coach Rich Lanko said. "They've done that all year. We never lay down to anybody, we always fight back, and we did a great job with that. We just couldn't give up the big inning there."

The Rams (27-3) won their first sectional title since 2013 and their state-record 27th overall while denying St. Rose its first sectional title since 2009. They will play Newark Academy in Toms River on Saturday in the Non-Public B final looking to add to their state-record 17 overall Non-Public titles.

The Purple Roses (24-4) saw a resurgent season come to an end when Gloucester Catholic struck for five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to snap a 4-4 tie.

Senior outfielder Brendan Hueth finished 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored, senior shortstop Joe Volpe had a two-run single, and junior designated hitter Sam Sestito was 2-for-2 with a run scored in the loss.

"I was telling the kids I'm very proud of them,'' Lanko said. "We haven't been (in a sectional final) since 2010. I told the seniors and juniors and the sophomores, 'You got the program back.'

"I know we didn't win, we didn't get the goal that we wanted, we didn't get the trophy, but we definitely got the program back. It's the most wins they've had in years, and getting back here is a great accomplishment. You don't go 24-4 and have a bad year."

The Purple Roses found themselves trailing right off the bat on Wednesday against a team that averages 10 runs per game when the Rams pushed across two runs against St. Rose senior ace Brandon Mology (5-1) in the bottom of the first inning. Shortstop Evan Giordano drew a lead-off walk, stole second, went to third on a grounder and then scored on a groundout by Florida State recruit Lillo Paxia, who continued his hot state tournament with two hits, a run scored and two RBI in the win.

The second run scored when Chris Turco drew a two-out walk, stole second and then scored on an RBI double to right field by starting pitcher Brendan Bean.

Gloucester Catholic made it 4-0 in the second inning by capitalizing on a two-out error on a grounder to shortstop after Kyle Pierman had hit a one-out double. Adam Bonomo, who reached on the error, then stole the Rams' third base in the first two innings and scored on a two-out single by Paxia.

The three Rams who reached base via walk or error in the first two innings all scored. St. Rose actually matched Gloucester Catholic with eight hits in the loss, but the Rams capitalized on two errors and three walks while stealing four bases.

"We talked about it all week,'' Lanko said. "We can't give them any opportunities, any little things, any mistakes because they're gonna capitalize."

Bean, a senior lefty, had cruised through the first two innings on 23 pitches before St. Rose got to him in the top of the third. Sestito started the rally with a leadoff single, followed by a walk by John Crowley and then a one-out single by leadoff batter Will Gannon that loaded the bases.

Hueth then had a great at-bat, drilling a hard grounder the opposite way past a diving third baseman on a 1-2 pitch for a two-run double to halve the lead.

Volpe followed with a two-run single to right field for his 100th career hit to tie the game and fire up the Purple Roses dugout.  


That would be the end of the fireworks for St. Rose, unfortunately, as the Rams answered with a five-run fourth inning to take the lead for good. Gloucester Catholic's final surge came after St. Rose nearly took the lead in the top of the inning, but a diving catch in right field by Paxia with runners on second and third snuffed out the scoring chance.

"We wanted a good game, and they brought it to us,'' Paxia said. "We were prepared for the situation. We weren't really scared (when St. Rose tied it). We knew we just had to play GC baseball and we would be fine."

In the bottom of the fourth, Pierman drew a leadoff walk and then went to third on a hit-and-run single by Giordano, who advanced to second on the throw to third. A pop-up to shortstop was then misplayed to allow Pierman to score for a 5-4 lead.

Paxia dropped a bunt single down the third base line to load the bases and then Turco ripped an RBI single on a full count for a two-run lead, still with no outs. That prompted Mology to be removed for junior righty Brody Maypother, who allowed an RBI sacrifice fly to Bean, an RBI single to catcher Sam Punzi and an RBI groundout on a squibber in front of home plate for all the runs the Rams would need.

St. Rose's best chance to make it interesting came with runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth, but Bean came up with an inning-ending strikeout to keep the Rams comfortably ahead.

Six of the 10 players who started the game for St. Rose on Wednesday will be back next season, including an ace-in-waiting in Maypother, after repeating as Shore Conference Class B Central champions this season.

They also will have Lanko back after he became the program's third head coach in the last three years.

"We got a lot of guys back, a lot of sophomores and juniors coming, so hopefully we'll be back,'' Lanko said. "We need some consistency. I love St. Rose, and hopefully I'll be here for a while."

To get over the hump, the Purple Roses will most likely need to find a way to solve Gloucester Catholic, which beat them in their last sectional final appearance in 2010 and dropped back down to Non-Public B this spring after being in Non-Public A for five seasons.

"If you want to win it, you've got to go through teams like that,'' Lanko said.

Box score

Gloucester Catholic 9, St. Rose 4


St. Rose (24-4)0040000482
Gloucester Cath. (27-3)2205000980



Brandon Mology (L, 5-1)37953091
Brody Maypother 4 1 0 00133
Brendan Bean (W, 4-2)68442498
John Kasper 1 000 0 2 18


Top Hitters

St. RoseGame Stats
Brendan Hueth2-4, 2B, R, RBI
Joe Volpe1-3, 2 RBI
Sam Sestito2-2, R


Gloucester Cath.Game Stats
Evan Giordano1-3, BB, SB, 2 R
Lilo Paxia2-4, R, 2 RBI
Chris Turco1-3, BB, SB, 2 R, RBI
Brendan Bean1-3, 2B, 2 RBI
Sam Punzi 2-2, HBP, RBI
Kyle Pierman 1-2, BB, 2B, 2 R

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