Knights just keep knocking

PASADENA — As its offense continues to roll, the St. Francis High baseball team extended its current win streak to six games on Friday with a 19-7 win over Harvard-Westlake at Jackie Robinson Field that improved the team’s Mission League record to 2-0.

St. Francis (6-1) has averaged slightly better than 11 runs per game during the streak and has never scored fewer than six. The seven runs allowed by the Golden Knights on Friday were a season-high, but backed by a season-high 19 runs scored, they were never in danger of losing the game.

“We’re hitting the ball pretty well right now,” St. Francis Coach Brian Esquival said. “As a team, this is probably some of the better hitting I’ve seen in a while here. We just hope that it continues.

“We hop back into Mission League play Tuesday night against Chaminade and, obviously, the competition is going to get a little bit better and teams are gonna get a little bit stronger as we keep going, but hopefully we can ride this as long as possible.”

Left fielder Nick Gentili (three for six) was a home run shy of the cycle and drove in five runs for St. Francis, while scoring three times. First baseman Aaron Berglund went two for three with three RBIs and a run and leadoff hitter Scottie Morrow (one for three) scored four of the five times he reached base.

In all, St. Francis pounded out 18 hits and worked 10 bases on balls off a total of six Wolverines pitchers to back starter Ethan Bramschreiber, who allowed two earned runs in four innings to pick up the win.

“I definitely think the key was our patience at the plate and, at the same time, our aggressiveness,” Gentili said. “We got [the pitcher] to throw a lot of pitches and when he made mistakes we were able to capitalize on them, so that really helped a lot.

“And, also, even on the outs we got, they were productive outs. We got guys to third, we got guys scoring on ground balls. It was really a productive day at the plate.”

The Golden Knights pounced early with a five-run first inning. Morrow, who walked, scored the first run on a two-base infield throwing error on a ball hit by Gentili. Gentili scored from third base with two outs on a single to shortstop by James Bonds (two for four) to put St. Francis up, 2-0.

The bases were loaded when catcher David Hubinger was hit by a pitch and Berglund cashed in his ensuing at bat with a two-run single through the middle of the infield.

Hubinger scored the final run of the frame on a single to right field by third baseman Jeff Johnson.

Leading, 6-0, in the third inning, St. Francis saw Harvard-Westlake draw to within four runs on a two-run double by Gavin McCourt after the first two batters of the inning reached via a walk and a fielding error. Consecutive sacrifice flies brought McCourt around to third and home to make it 6-3.

St. Francis wasted no time in answering with a seven-run barrage in the bottom half of the inning, in which the Golden Knights brought 12 batters to the plate and chased two Harvard-Westlake pitchers, including starter Lucas Giolito.

Andrew Yu, Berglund, Johnson, Gentili and Hubinger all had hits during the rally, which was capped by Hubinger’s RBI single to score Bonds.

The Wolverines (1-5-1, 0-2) were heard from once more in the top of the fifth, when they put up four runs to pull within 15-7. But, once again, St. Francis replied in kind, getting the runs back with two in the fifth and two more in the sixth.

“To be able to come back the next inning and be able to put up another two or three runs is huge,” Esquival said. “Any time another team scores a few runs on you and you come back, it just shows the sign of a good team.”

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