Racing to cover second base after a hard-hit grounder to short, Alex Gasbarro took nothing for granted.
He had to turn this play quickly.
Taking the throw from shortstop Matt Dornbos, Gasbarro fired to first to turn the game-ending double play as host St. Laurence held on for an exciting 5-4 victory on June 1 over Joliet Catholic Academy (JCA) in a Class 3A sectional championship.
The sectional title was the third in four years for the Vikings.
“Me and Matt, our relationship has helped us get so much better and succeed a lot more [on double plays],” Gasbarro said. “We work out; we work every day in practice. It’s getting the reps in, so it’s just instinct.”
St. Laurence (33-5) advanced to play De La Salle on June 3 in the Class 3A Ozinga Field supersectional with a berth in the state semifinals on the line.
Senior Matt McCormick (2 runs, 2 RBI) led the Vikings over JCA.
Vito Valincius and Gasbarro added a RBI each with Luke Montgomery, Jake Vera and Ryan Cummings scoring a run apiece.
Senior Matt Zahora picked up the win, allowing 2 runs (none earned) on 4 hits and 4 walks with 2 strikeouts.
Entering the game in the sixth with 2 on and 2 outs, McCormick (West Virginia) extinguished the threat with straight heat for a strikeout.
In the seventh however, he struggled with his command, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks.
With the tying and game-winning runs on base, McCormick got what he was looking for, a grounder up the middle right at Dornbos allowing Gasbarro to turn the double play.
It was McCormick’s 10th save of the year.
“Always got to make it interesting,” McCormick said with a laugh. “At that point, I’m just trying to throw strikes. I lost my control somehow. Matt and Alex are working hard trying to make every play. They’ve turned some key double plays in the playoffs.”
In the 2018 season, the St. Laurence infield struggled at times fielding the ball.
After a long offseason, the team’s defense has become the Vikings’ strength.
“We trusted Matt to get a grounder. I knew it was coming at some point,” Gasbarro said. “When we got it, all the reps, it’s natural. You don’t think. It just happens.”
McCormick blasted a first-inning solo home run that cleared the right field wall and Long Avenue and landed on a house on the far side of the street.
St. Laurence Coach Pete Lotus said his team’s effort was impressive from the first pitch to the last.
“Matt’s homer really helped, and Matty Z was his usual tough self,” Lotus said. “He kept getting outs. Our kids were great from the start. They played loose. We had great approaches all day.”