Senior Brady O’Brien had started just one game for the St. Mary’s Lancers in 2019 prior to their Game 3 showdown with Canisius.
That didn’t stop him from wanting the start in the win-or-go-home matchup, nor did it stop him from taking his squad to the finals.
O’Brien tossed a complete game shutout and struck out three as the Lancers blanked Canisius 2-0 Friday at Delaware Park winning them Game 3 and the semifinal series, 2-1.
“I hadn’t pitched him [O’Brien] at all this year. He threw against St. Francis two weeks ago and threw a one-hitter,” said St. Mary’s coach Michael Wagner. “I had a number one guy I was going to use, but I thought maybe I could throw some off speed. Brady is good at throwing from behind in the count.”
While O’Brien kept the Crusaders at bay, it wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Lancers were finally able to break the scoreless deadlock.
With men on first and third base and one out, junior Luke Szablewski drove in Brandon Thome (2 for 3), to give the Lancers a 1-0 lead. Szablewski would later score on a past ball to extend their advantage to 2-0.
From there, it was on O’Brien to defend the lead, and defend it he did.
In the seventh inning, with the Crusaders down to their final three outs, it looked early on that a comeback was in the works. A base hit and a walk had men on first and second base with no outs.
Then came a series of events O’Brien may never forget.
A Canisius bunt attempt popped straight into the air, giving O’Brien just enough time to sprint off the mound and make the grab and follow it up with a quick turnaround throw to second base that picked off the runner. It was a double play, and just like that, the Lancers could feel it.
“I knew I had to throw it inside. I grabbed it, I knew right where the play was going to be, and that was it,” said O’Brien.
With one last out to go, a line drive back at the mound was snared by none other than O’Brien, and the celebratory mob from his teammates ensued.
“It was an adrenaline rush, then [the ball] was right there, and then the dogpile,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been waiting for and it’s our goal to win the Georgetown Cup.”
While the Crusaders battled late in the game and had the winning run at the plate in the seventh inning, it was too little too late.
“[The bats] got a little cold in the first five innings. I thought our pitchers threw pretty well,” said Canisius coach Justin Santonocito. “I’m so proud of our boys. With me coming in for the first year, it took a while for them to get used to me and my ways … It’s unfortunate. Somebody’s got to win the game, and they got us.”
Awaiting St. Mary’s in the Georgetown Cup final is a familiar foe: St. Joe’s. The Marauders have knocked out the Lancers in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
This year, however, the Lancers are confident that trend can change, and that they can win their first title since the 1980s.
“Last year, we played them fourteen innings, this year we played them eleven. We’re ready, and I would say they’re ready too,” said Wagner. “We’re expecting to play hard every game. We have momentum going for us.”
The best-of-three championship series kicks off with Game 1 at 5 p.m. on June 4 at Canisius College.
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