Crusaders explode for eight runs in sixth

Nicholas Choruby walked out of Jesuit's dugout in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Crusaders' first round playoff game against Hillsboro, stood in the on-deck circle with a steely glare plastered on his face and seethed.

Just a few moments earlier Choruby, Jesuit's starter on the mound on Monday, had given up a two-run, two-out homer to Spartan cleanup hitter Stefanos Panayiotou in the top of the sixth that handed Hillsboro a 4-3 lead. It was the one mistake Choruby committed all afternoon on the hill, but the righty was beside himself and went up to the plate with a cutthroat outlook seeking retribution. by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jesuits Nick Choruby pitches the ball to a Hillsboro player during Mondays playoff win.

Yet, as a seasoned senior who's been through the playoff peaks and valleys before, Choruby knew he couldn't carry the prior bomb he'd just yielded with him. Flush it and move on, Choruby said to himself. So with the score tied at 4-4 after a Brian DeGrandmont RBI, the left-handed hitting Choruby chilled and got the job done with a seeing-eye single between second and first base that scored Evan Haberle and gave Jesuit a 5-4 lead. by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jesuits Evan Haberle makes the play on a groundball during a playoff game Monday against Hillsboro.

Two batters later with the bases full of Crusaders, Trent Werner kept the rain coming down with a shot down the third baseline that cleared the bases and ballooned the advantage to 8-4.

A couple extra insurance RBIs by Ken Carlson and John Anderson capped an eight-run sixth inning that gave Jesuit an 11-4 win and sent the Crusaders onto the second round of the 6A playoffs against West Salem on Wednesday.

“We were getting a lot of guys on, but we hadn't gotten that big hit yet,” said Choruby, who went 2-2 with two walks. “That's just baseball for you. Sometimes you don't get those big hits that bring in runs all game, and you just have to wait for it. We were patient at the plate with the right approach.

“It's good that my hit got through there because I was looking to crush one. But when stuff like that happens, you just have to thank the man upstairs because that was big.”

Jesuit trailed twice in the contest but kept chipping away at Hillsboro. By the end of the conclusive sixth stanza, the Crusaders had grinded the Spartans to dust. Haberle went 5-5 on the day with five singles and sparked a 15-hit barrage by Jesuit.

“That's just the type of team we are. We were down one run twice, and we just did a good job of coming back,” said Haberle. “We have really good players who make really big plays. We have a lot of good seniors and good young guys who like to step it up in times like these.”

All game-long Jesuit put runners on the bags, but the game-changing hit alluded them for five innings until Choruby's tapper found the outfield, and Werner's kick in the Spartans' teeth opened the floodgates. Panayiotou's homer seemed to reinvigorate Jesuit who recognized its season was in jeopardy if the team didn't put runs up rapidly.

“Anytime something like that happens, you have to focus up and flush it when you come up to hit, and I think we did a good job of that. It fired us up a little bit, definitely,” said Choruby. “All of us are coming to the plate with a chip on our shoulder now. If someone hits a bomb, we're coming up looking to score some runs, which we did, and it paid off.”

Werner said it was just a matter of time until Jesuit broke down the dam Hillsboro had built around home plate.

“Eventually we knew we were going to get on him. It was the fourth time through the lineup. We knew what he was going to do, and that helped us out a lot, just knowing what he was going to start us out with and seeing pitches,” said Werner. “We were fighting the whole game. Our whole team was getting hits when we needed to, making plays in the outfield and infield and (Choruby) was dealing. It was close the whole game, and we blew it up.”

Choruby got the ball as Jesuit's opening playoff starter and put his trust and pitch selection in the hands of senior catcher Matt Decker and the Crusader coaching staff. The merging of Choruby's right arm and the astute knowledge of his battery mate and coaching staff churned out an upper-class outing for the senior who at one point sat down nine straight Spartans. Leaning on his fastball, curveball and change-up, Choruby threw a three-hitter with six strikeouts in a wire-to-wire appearance.

“I was just comfortable out there, and my stuff was working a little bit so I kept going to it. All three pitches were working for strikes, so I went about mixing it up and keeping them off-balance,” said Choruby.

Going into Wednesday's second round contest at West Salem — the seventh-ranked team in 6A — Jesuit had won 10 straight games with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Choruby hopes Monday's win is just the start of something special for the upset-minded Crusaders.

“We're a good team, we have a lot of talent, and we're all excited to be here and excited to play. It's the playoffs, anything can happen. We're a little bit of an underdog this year, but we're ready to come out on fire and kick somebody's butt,” said Choruby.

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