Brother Martin catcher Jake Dickinson found out about three hours before game time that he would be in the starting lineup Thursday night.
Starting catcher Blake Bufkin wasn’t feeling well so Dickinson, a senior backup, was thrust into the lineup for Game 1 of the second-seeded Crusaders’ best-of-three Division I playoff series against John Curtis at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
Neither Dickinson nor his teammates missed a beat as he doubled in the game’s only runs and was on the receiving end of Brennan Stuprich’s 3-hitter in Brother Martin’s 2-0 win.
“I knew I had to just lock in as soon as I found out,” Dickinson said.
The game was scoreless into the bottom of the fourth when Curtis starter Logan O’Neill walked Ethan Moser and Cole Stromboe to start the inning.
Caden Nash advanced the runners with a sacrifice and Dickinson lined an 0-1 fastball into right-center.
“I knew (O’Neill) was struggling and was going to come in with a fastball,” Dickinson said.
Joe Delaney followed with a single to center, but Dax Ford threw out courtesy runner Shane Griffin at the plate.
The Crusaders (25-5) missed another scoring opportunity in the fifth when they put runners on second and third with one out before Moser struck out and Stromboe grounded out.
But it didn’t matter as Stuprich dominated by striking out six, including two in both the sixth and the seventh, and walking just one.
“I knew (the Patriots) were a good hitting team,” Stuprich said. “I just tried to keep the ball down and trust my teammates to make plays behind me.”
The biggest defensive play came in the fifth as John Curtis tried to answer Brother Martin’s two-run rally.
With one out, Stuprich allowed his first hit on O’Neill’s single. O’Neill stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Amir Phillips hit a line drive to deep left field, but Blaine Starring made a diving catch to end the threat.
“They made a huge defensive play,” Patriots coach Jeff Curtis said. “If he doesn’t make that play, the ball could get by for a triple and then who knows what happens?”
The Patriots got their second hit when Joel Taylor doubled with one out in the sixth, but Stuprich got a flyout and a strikeout to maintain the shutout.
In the seventh, Collin Guggenheim led off with a single and went to second on Stuprich’s errant pickoff throw. But Stuprich got a strikeout, a pop-up and another strikeout to end it.
“(Stuprich) has been our guy all year and we rode him again tonight,” Crusaders coach Jeff Lupo said. “We expected nothing less.”
The second game will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday and if a third game is necessary it will start at approximately 5 p.m. The two-time defending state champion Patriots (15-14) will be facing elimination.
“I told our guys that we got everything we wanted out of tonight except the win,” Curtis said. “But we’ve got (Ford) pitching the first game so we feel good about Game 2. Then Game 3 is for a trip to (the semifinals) and that’s all you can ask for.”
O’Neill allowed just three hits in four innings, but walked six while striking out two. Michael Curtis pitched the last two innings and allowed one hit and one walk, while striking out one.
Lupo said he’s hopeful that Bufkin will be able to play Saturday.