Carvelli, Azcona, Gialliusi guide St. Joe’s comeback

By Bob Behre | April 14, 2022

St. Joseph’s Robbie Carvelli launches a two-run double in the fifth inning to trigger a four-run rally.

Through four and a half innings, St. Joseph (Met.) had played the type of baseball that keeps coaches tossing and turning late into the night and early morning.

But that same team put together a string of quality at bats in the fifth and sixth inning that will subsequently soothe their coach with thoughts that his Falcons will never be out of a game.

Down 9-1 entering the home half of the fifth in Metuchen, St. Joseph put itself back in the game with a four-run rally. That relentless Falcons lineup then struck for five runs in the sixth and wrested the lead from a sturdy East Brunswick team en route to a wild 10-9 victory.

“Our slogan this year is “Good-To-Great,” said St. Joseph coach Mike Murray. “We are a good program, but we want to be a great program. To be a great program, you have to have great wins.”

Huge hits were delivered by Christian Azcona, Robbie Carvelli and Mark Gialliusi, but the contributions were many for St. Joseph (5-0), which entered the game with a gaudy No. 4 ranking in the NJ.com statewide poll. East Brunswick (5-2) may be unranked but the Bears showed they’d be happy to claw with anyone and, in many cases, feast.

It was a great win for St. Joseph and an important one in the rugged Greater Middlesex Conference, but the two teams jump out of the pot and right into the kettle on Thursday in East Brunswick for Part II of the teams’ home-and-home series. No rest for the GMC weary.

The performance of the game, in fact, belonged to East Brunswick starting pitcher Dustin McGuinness. The sophomore righthander had the Falcons backed into a 9-1 hole through four at bats with a live fastball and an assortment of breaking balls. McGuinness, batting third, also went 4-for-4 at the plate, drove in two runs and scored a run. That’s a nice one-game resume to email to the rest of the Greater Middlesex Conference coaches.

St. Joseph contributed to its first four innings of trouble by committing five errors. It is still mid-April.

“I don’t think we had the necessary sense of urgency coming off of four straight wins,” said Murray. “I think we had a combination of things go wrong early as we tried to make something happen.”

McGuinness, however, ran out of gas as his pitch count soared late and the St. Joseph lineup took its early frustrations out on him when it mattered most. It will be fun, though, to watch McGuinness deal after he gets more April games under his belt and his stamina naturally acquires more depth.

Gialliusi, the Falcons’ catcher and leadoff hitter, triggered both St. Joe’s rallies, leading off the fifth inning with a double down the left field line and crushing a one-out, solo home run to left in the sixth off a McGuinness hanger. The junior bound for Boston College went 2-for-3, scored three runs, drove in one run, stole a base and threw out three runners on the basepaths.

Carvelli absolutely hammered a two-run double to straightaway center field in the fifth and Azcona scorched a shot so hard over the right fielder’s head in the sixth he had to settle for a two-run single. Each hit was the centerpiece of the two Falcons rallies.

St. Joseph’s Josiah Brown comes storming home to meet Mark Gialliusi on a fifth inning double by Robbie Carvelli.

“I knew we had the talent to rally,” said Azcona, a junior committed to Eastern Kentucky. “I was looking for a fastball I could drive. I was able to put one in play.”

Carvelli, a junior committed to Lehigh University, went 3-for-4 with two singles and the big double in the fifth. He scored twice and drove in two runs and made a beautiful running catch in right-center for the second out of the seventh.

The double drove in two runs that shaved the deficit to 9-3 and brought the Falcons dugout back to life. “I was getting a lot of off-speed pitches my first two at bats,” said Carvelli. “I had a 1-0 count and was looking for something up and got it.”

Tyler DelVecchio (3-for-4, 3 runs) followed with a single before Carvelli scored on a wild pitch, and Thomas Zammitti singled home Delvecchio to draw St. Joseph within 9-5.

East Brunswick had scored two runs in the third to take a 2-1 lead, five runs in the fourth and two runs in the fifth to build its 9-1 lead. McGuinness was smack in the middle of all three rallies and had plenty of help. Dylan Lugo and Ryan Basham, the top two hitters in the Bears’ order, scored three runs apiece and Basham went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Aiden Gonzalez singled a run home in the third and Vincent LaRocca beat out an infield single to get a run home in the fourth for East Brunswick.

While St. Joseph’s pitching was uneven, it saved its best for the final two East Brunswick at bats.

Walter Schwartz, who relieved starter Jimmy Mulvaney in the third, closed out his effort with a 1-2-3 top of the sixth. That was a huge quick inning for Schwartz coming off of St. Joseph’s rally in the bottom of the fifth.

Then closer Bryan Rios entered in the seventh, striking out two around Carvelli’s grab for another 1-2-3 inning.

“I knew we had a shot,” said Carvelli. “I was talking to Schwartz in the fifth inning and he said, ‘We are going to win this game.’ We’ve scored 13 and 14 runs in games.” St. Joseph has totaled 55 runs in its five games.

Mulvaney, anticipated to be one of an array of talented starting pitchers for St. Joseph made his first start of the season after battling a shoulder impingement. The righty side-winder permitted two runs, one of which was earned, on two hits, struck out five and walked four in 2.1 innings. Murray pulled him after his planned 50 pitches. The most revealing stretch for Mulvaney, a junior bound for Fairfield University, occurred when he struck out the last batter of the first inning and then the side in order in the second.

Like McGuinness, Mulvaney becomes more dangerous with more work.

NOTES: Zammitti (2-for-3, SF, 3 RBI) delivered the tying run in the sixth with a sac fly to center fielder that scored pinch-runner Donovan Zsak. Pinch-runner Connor Drury scored the go-ahead run from second on a throwing error after Will Ramsey hit a bouncer to the right side.

… McGuinness permitted four hits and one unearned run through four innings, retiring the side in order in the fourth as his pitch total reached a modest 64. He had struck out seven and walked none. He then allowed six runs, five earned, in his last 1.1 innings, on six hits. He struck out two and walked one as his pitch total crept toward 100. Those first four innings, however, are the attention-getters.

There are six Diamond Jacks playing for St. Joseph; Carvelli, Azcona, Mulvaney, Zsak, Benny Fonseca and Matt Kosuda. Fonseca and Kosuda are sitting for the prescribed 30 days after transferring.

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