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“Got to tip your cap to Mike [Costanzo]. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled. That’s what great pitchers do.” Brother Rice coach Johnny McCarthy said. | Vincent D. Johnson/For Sun-Times Media
The mark of an ace pitcher is to find a way to keep his team in the game without the benefit of his best arsenal.
St. Rita ace Mike Costanzo didn’t have his best stuff Saturday against Brother Rice.
But the senior lefty battled and gave the top-ranked Mustangs a chance to win.
Which they did 7-2 over the host Crusaders in a Catholic League Blue contest.
Costanzo allowed just one hit over five innings of work. But he walked eight, committed a pair of errors and struck out six over a 91-pitch performance.
“He’s a great competitor,” St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said of Costanzo. “Any time he’s out there, I feel like he’s going to give 150 percent. We could have been down 5-0, but he battled through it.”
Instead, the Mustangs (27-1, 12-1) trailed only 2-0, despite Costanzo walking four batters in the first inning. The Crusaders managed to score on a fielder’s choice by Kevin Biondic and bases loaded walk to Jake Barry.
Costanzo wiggled out of jams in the second and third innings as well.
Rice (20-8, 9-4) stranded seven runners over the first three innings.
“We had opportunities; we didn’t capitalize,” Rice coach Johnny McCarthy said. “Got to tip your cap to Mike [Costanzo]. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled. That’s what great pitchers do.”
A sacrifice fly by Tyler Halas in the third inning cut the deficit to 2-1 before St. Rita took the lead for good in the fourth with a two-spot.
Danny Gleaves’ double plated pinch-runner Mateo Zunica and tied the game 2-2. Shane Peisker (3-for-4) followed with a single, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Mike Zunica called for a double steal, with the speedy Gleaves crossing home plate for a 3-2 advantage.
Gleaves reached base five times, going 4-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch.
“I took advantage of some pitches,” said Gleaves, who has 17 stolen bases. “The ball was looking pretty big in the zone.”
Rice starter Brian Musielak went five innings, allowing three runs, 10 hits and two walks. He struck out one.
The Mustangs jumped on reliever Ian McGinnis for four runs in the sixth, compliments of the long ball. Jake Shepski (2-for-4) and Nick Goldsmith each blasted two-run homers, opening up a 7-2 lead.
“He threw me a 2-0 curveball, a 2-1 changeup and then a 3-1 changeup,” Shepski said. “I figured if he threw me a changeup on 2-1, he’s not going to throw me a fastball on 3-1. I was sitting on the changeup.”
Matt Lenzen came on for Costanzo and pitched two scoreless innings.