MAYS LANDING — With a full slate of games the next few days and the Diamond Classic this weekend, St. Joseph baseball coach Tom Carney wanted to get his starting pitcher out in the fifth inning after the Wildcats took a 4-0 lead on host ACIT in the hopes he could use him again later in the week.

But the RedHawks rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to close the gap to 4-2, forcing Carney to bring Joe Marino back in to quell the rally and get the Wildcats out of the inning. The move worked, as St. Joseph held the lead, tacked on four more runs in the top of the seventh and won, 8-4, to improve to 12-3 overall and 11-2 in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference. The Wildcats currently sit atop the conference standings, but are in a tight battle with Cedar Creek, Middle Township and Lower Cape May.

"We're 12-3, but we're really young. We only start two seniors. We're doing it with smoke and mirrors sometimes, but we'll take it," said St. Joseph coach Tom Carney. "I'm really proud of the fight in the kids. You're trying to steal innings with pitchers. I took my starter out, then had to bring him back in. We played a 9-game-in-a-row stretch, now we have Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and all next week. So we'll play about eight days in a row. But everybody is in the same boat, it's not just raining on St. Joe."

Marino and ACIT starter Chris Sieg matched zeroes through the first four innings before the Wildcats broke through in the top of the fifth with four runs. Three walks loaded the bases and an error on a potential inning-ending double play ball allowed the first run to score and kept things alive for the Wildcats to plate three more. St. Joseph's second run scored on a wild pitch before a two-run double by Bobby Hyndman pushed the lead to 4-0 and forced RedHawks coach Mike Anthony to lift Sieg.

ACIT (5-13, 4-10) shaved the lead in half in the bottom of the sixth as Matt O'Toole started a rally with a two-out walk and Sieg followed by tucking a double just inside the third-base bag to put runners at second and third. Mike Graziano was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Ryan Keil followed with a two-run double to left-center. That forced Carney to bring Marino back in to get the Wildcats out of the jam. He did so, and St. Joseph tacked on four runs in the top of the seventh to push the lead to 8-2.

Chris Sieg pitched well for ACIT in the RedHawks' loss to St. Joseph on Tuesday, shutting the Wildcats out through the first four innings. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O'Sullivan)
Chris Sieg pitched well for ACIT in the RedHawks' loss to St. Joseph on Tuesday, shutting the Wildcats out through the first four innings. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O'Sullivan)

"He's our ace," Carney said of Marino. "He's quality, but you can't pitch him every day. That's what we're hoping is to get as many innings as we can out of him."

"That kid Marino, he can throw the ball. He's a great lefty and he's going places with that arm," O'Toole said. "He's got a great arm, good off-speed pitches, a good slider. He's going to go places with that arm."

ACIT didn't go quietly, however, scoring twice more in the bottom of the seventh on Sieg's two-run single to left.

Carney said he knew it was going to be a tight game with Sieg and Marino battling it out on the mound.

"Seeing Sieg was nice for us. One thing we've lacked is we haven't seen a lot of quality, hard pitching. We need to see that. To be where we want to be, we have to beat that kind of pitching, so that was good for us to see that kind of pitching and get a win," Carney said. "Once I knew (Sieg) was pitching, I knew our guy has been shutting everybody down, so I knew it would be that way. I just wanted to get ahead. When we went up by four runs, I took a shot and rolled the dice. Now, we won't have him for Thursday, but he can come in and close for us on Friday and he's going to start in the Diamond Classic for us on Saturday."

"He's a great all-around baseball player," O'Toole said of Sieg. "He can pitch, he can hit. He can do everything. He went out there, threw as hard as he could today. I wish a couple of things could have gone differently and I wish he could have gotten the win, because he pitched great today."

O'Toole said the RedHawks just have to keep playing tough baseball down the stretch. The playoffs might be out of reach, but he said ACIT is playing for pride now.

"We just have to finish out the season and keep playing hard every single game. We may not have made the playoffs and we may not be having the season we wanted to have, but at the same time, you have to just keep playing the game," O'Toole said. "You have to play for the love of the game and you have to play until the final out."

Contact Dave O'Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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