Leto coach finds blessing; Falcons find clutch hit
|Leto coach JJ Pizzio (813Preps file photo)|
“I just miss Coach Reed and my Dad so much,” Pizzio said. “I had our guys do an exercise we do often before the games where we lay on the field and stare at the sky to clear our minds and focus.”
“But right then it just hit me and I started praying, not for us to win the game, but for those two to be with me, with us tonight.”
Longtime Hillsborough coach Billy Reed passed away in late December, and Pizzio said he looked to his former skipper for advice and cherished him like a father after his own father passed in 1999.
“Nate pitched his butt off us again,” Pizzio said of Gustafson. “Nothing was going our way, but we kept it close enough to still be in it.”
Gustafson and senior Aaron Jensen provided the RBI hits to give Hillsborough the two-run lead.
Then the Falcons coach said he felt the wind pick up prior to the frame and he felt that was a sign and the coach turned to an unlikely source with a pair of runners aboard.Proud of my team tonight and the way they laid it all on the line. Unfortunately we fell short of our goal. We didn't lose the game, Leto won the game 3-2. Thanks to @aaronjensen22 @elywest_34 @DoloMike__ for showing the young guys how its done at the Borough. Gonna miss ya!!— HHS Baseball (@BIG_REDBASEBALL) May 3, 2018
Junior Bryan Perez has struggled off the field for his three years with the team, and Pizzio said he’d finally became eligible during the year academically. But he didn’t know if Perez had earned the right to get in a game.
“I’m proud of Bryan, but I wasn’t sure he was quite ready to get on the field,” Pizzio said. “But this was the moment (in the sixth) and I put him in to pinch hit, telling him do this for you and for this team.”
Perez answered the call with a two-run triple, and senior Abel Diaz added the eventual decider with a hit to drive him in.
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“I didn’t really think about the game, I let the kids do the work,” Pizzio said. “I was good before it started. I felt blessed.”
The Falcons face Gaither, winners over King on Tuesday, in the district final at home on Thursday.