Lions suffer back-to-back losses against defending district champs

Kyle Riviere
Landon Ortego scored Ascension Christian's only run in the Lions' 10-1 district loss to St. John on Thursday. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Last season, Ascension Christian was blown out on the road against district champion St. John. But when they played at home, Nic Montalbano pitched a shutout and the Lions pulled off a huge 5-0 victory.

They were hoping for the same scenario on Thursday evening, but the Eagles flipped the script on them.

After getting trounced by St. John 12-2 on the road the day before, Ascension Christian hosted them on Thursday with Montalbano, their ace, on the mound, but this time around, he had no answers for the potent Eagle bats.

St. John put up six runs against him in the first two innings. The Lions never recovered. For the second straight day, they fell victim to a blowout loss—this one coming at 10-1.

"Tip your hat to St. John; they beat us this week. That's baseball,” Ascension Christian head coach Conrad Gayle said. “This week, they got us pretty good in all phases of the game--from coaching, to pitching, to base-running, to hitting, to defense. That's why we play so many games. You always have the highs of the highs, but you also have the lows of the lows. The best teams find a way to be in the middle and be consistent."

In the top of the first, things began to snowball after the Eagles’ Landon LeBlanc reached base following a fielding error. He eventually scored on an RBI single by Collin Barbee.

Barbee came home on an infield single by Justin Rivet that gave St. John a quick 2-0 lead.

It only got worse for Montalbano and the Lions in the next inning.

After singles by Grant Blanchard and Adam Theriot and a walk by Tre’ Dupont, the bases were loaded. It set the table for Barbee as he unleashed a base-clearing double to the centerfield wall.

Barbee eventually scored on a passed ball to give the Eagles a commanding 6-0 lead after two.

That marked the end of the day for Montalbano as he left the game with some pain in his throwing shoulder.

"We had an error in the first inning. That hurt us because it gave them a little bit of momentum. Then they had a timely hit that made it 2-0 right off of the bat,” Gayle said. “We knew they were gonna pitch well. Nic came out in the second, and he just didn't feel right. They had a good piece of hitting. They had the momentum, and they kept it. We just could never get past that."

Trailing 7-0 in the top of the fifth, LeBlanc crushed a two-run homer to extend the lead to 9-0.

Ascension Christian didn’t get their first hit until the bottom of that inning, when Josh Poirrier singled following a Landon Ortego leadoff walk.

Tyler Cambre came up with another hit, and Ortego came around to score the Lions’ only run on a sac grounder by Sal Montalbano.

For the game, Ascension Christian was limited to just four total hits, while St. John exploded for 11.

Poirrier, Cambre, Sal Montalbano and K’von Delone all went 1-3. Montalbano had their lone RBI.

Lion pitching had no answer for Barbee, who went a perfect 3-3 with four RBIs.

The back-to-back losses by the Lions put an end to an eight-game winning streak to begin the season, but Coach Gayle is optimistic his team will bounce back.

"We can learn from this. It's a long season,” Gayle said. “We're not on St. John's level yet, but I can promise you that at the end of the season, we're gonna get a lot better. Tomorrow is another day.

“You have to move on in baseball. Every team goes through this--whether it's a great team or a bad team. Everybody has bad moments, bad weeks, bad days. Good teams find a way to stop a two-game losing streak and start a new eight-game winning streak."