Patrick Neenan had the biggest hit of his career Tuesday to lead Loyola to a 4-3 win over St. Laurence in a Catholic Blue game in Burbank.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth inning of a tied game, Loyola head coach Nick Bridich called on Neenan to pinch hit. The junior responded with an RBI single to left field that scored junior Sean McLaughlan for the go-ahead run.
Junior left-hander Jake Novak made sure it held up by pitching a scoreless sixth and seventh.
“It was a gut feeling,” Bridich said of going with Neenan in that situation. “If you do this long enough, sometimes you push the right button.”
It was Neenan’s first hit of the season. After starting the opener against St. Patrick, his only other plate appearance came as a pinch hitter in a 12-5 loss to St. Francis on the road Thursday.
“He’s a kid who’s been doing the right things and waiting for an opportunity,” Bridich said. “He was the right guy at the right time [Tuesday].”
Senior Jason Vrbancic led off the sixth with a single, and McLaughlan entered as a courtesy runner. After junior Jake Novak and senior Trey Torain both were hit by pitches to load the bases, Neenan delivered the game-winning hit.
As usual, St. Laurence is one of the top teams in the state. The Vikings are ranked No. 4 by Prep Baseball Report, one of five Catholic Blue teams in the top 25.
“You got to believe you can win these games, and we do,” Bridich said. “To get the win shows we can beat the best. We didn’t play a perfect game, but when push came to shove, we were the better team [Tuesday].”
Vrbancic finished with two hits and one RBI. Senior Dan Hrvojevic and Novak both had one hit and one RBI.
Senior right-hander Ben Wagner started and went five innings. He allowed five hits and two earned runs and struck out two.
The Ramblers (8-2-1, 2-1) host St. Laurence (13-2, 3-1) on Thursday in the second game of the series. Loyola plays at home Friday against St. Francis before traveling to play Brother Rice on Saturday. The Crusaders are ranked No. 8.