NORTON — Pope John Paul II put runners on first and second with no outs in the top of the seventh when struggling senior Mike Young strolled into the batter’s box and the Lions down a run in potentially their last at-bat of the season.
Young didn’t have a hit all postseason, so when coach Mark Santos called the captain over to the third base coaches’ box, he expected to be asked to bunt the runners into scoring position.
But Santos had a different message.
“Everyone in the world thinks you’re gonna bunt,” Santos told Young. “I’m gonna let you go up and be a big boy and hit.”
Santos’s faith paid off. Young turned on an 0-2 pitch and rifled a double that one-hopped the wall in left field to score junior Matt Santos and senior Ben Gibson, propelling Pope John Paul II to a 6-4 win over Lowell Catholic in the Division 4 state semifinals Wednesday night at Wheaton College.
“I know [my struggles have] been a letdown to my team, but they did a good job getting on base, giving me an opportunity to drive them in,” Young said. “He just gave me an easy pitch 0-2 and I just hit it hard.
“Especially this moment, it just felt awesome.”
The Lions (25-0) will play Hopkins Academy for the state title Saturday afternoon at Holy Cross in Worcester.
Junior Kevin Marsh’s sacrifice fly in the seventh for Pope John Paul II made it a two-run final margin.
Young earned the win, tossing the final 3⅓ innings, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out three and walking a pair.
With the score 2-2 in the top of the fifth, Marsh drew a walk with the bases loaded to give the Lions a 3-2 lead.
Lowell Catholic (21-3) got to Young in the fifth for two runs to take its first lead of the game.
With Pope John Paul II leading by one run, Fighting Crusader senior Connor Sullivan led off with a double and senior Nick Cervizzi walked. A passed ball advanced both runners, but Young retired the next two batters to bring junior Jesse Caisse to the plate.
Caisse singles to center to bring in Sullivan for the tying run, then a bobble in the outfield brought in Cervizzi for the 4-3 Lowell Catholic lead.