Whatever growing pains the St. Francis High baseball team endured during nonleague play certainly haven't carried over into action in the arduous Mission League.
No, the plucky Golden Knights have already surpassed last season's league win total in just four games.
A bases-loaded, one-out single from sophomore Niko Khoury drove home the winning run as the Golden Knights defeated visiting usual tormentor Chaminade, 2-1, in eight innings at the Glendale Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.
The triumph snapped a three-game losing streak for the Golden Knights versus the Eagles, while Chaminade had won 11 of 12 meetings heading into Tuesday.
St. Francis, which finished 2-16 in league last season, is now 3-1 in league after opening 0-7 in nonleague play, while Chaminade dropped to 7-4-1, 2-3-1.
"I liked how our kids never gave up on each other and picked each other up and we played as a team," St. Francis first-year Coach Aaron Dorlarque said. "We used the preseason games as an opportunity not to win, but to get better. We battled and you saw that today."
After tying the contest at 1 in the fifth inning, the Golden Knights threatened to add more, only to come away empty-handed and head into extra innings.
St. Francis broke through in the eighth thanks to a lead-off double from junior Will Schmidt, whose ball down the line was just out of reach of diving Chaminade left fielder Jared Stark.
Golden Knights senior Jacob Becthold then chopped an infield single to third that did not advance Schmidt from second base.
A strikeout by Chaminade reliever Ernest Adendorff was followed by a beaning to the back of the head of St. Francis sophomore outfielder Doyle Kane, which loaded the bases with one out.
Two pitches later, Khoury delivered his team a rare victory with he laced a 1-0 fastball into right field for the game-winning hit.
"It was a close game and we came through," Khoury said. "I had to come in clutch and all I was focusing was on the right side of the field and that's what I did. I got a base hit."
Only an inning earlier, the Golden Knights came within inches of winning.
Junior Aaron Treloar picked up a bizarre single when he lined the ball into the vicinity of the glove of Chaminade second baseman Cole Reibenspies. While the first-base umpire flashed the safe sign, signifying that the infielder caught the ball on the bounce, Reibenspies never threw to first base. That allowed a hustling Treloar to reach on a single.
With two out and Treloar on second, pinch-hitter John Spellman ripped a single into left, which resulted in an outfield assist from Stark, who cut down Treloar trying to score in the bottom of the seventh.
In the sixth inning, St. Francis put runners on second and third with one out, but relievers James Oddino and Adendorff each picked up a punchout to escape the jam.
St. Francis scored its first run in the fifth when a single from Brandon Lewis scored junior Christian Muro, who doubled.
The run countered a run-scoring double from Carter Graham that put Chaminade up, 1-0, after a half inning.
Not lost in the late-game heroics was a strong start by St. Francis starting pitcher Evan Tontini.
After allowing the first-inning run, the senior buckled down and allowed one run on four hits over six innings.
Matt Odom pitched a scoreless seventh with one strikeout for St. Francis, while reliever junior JP Caire picked up the win with a scoreless eighth inning of work.
"It feels good to get this win, especially because of the start we've had," Tontini said. "I felt really loose warming up and the focus was to get the first win of the week and first win of the series.
"We took some tough losses in the nonleague season, but this is league, this is what we got ready for and we're playing the way we're supposed to."
St. Francis will head to Chaminade on Wednesday in the second contest of the three-game series.