St. Joseph’s pitcher Ben Macafee felt like he was poised for a solid outing after facing his first batter Monday.
Turns out he was in for the performance of his career.
Macafee — who’s seen limited time on the mound this season — kept Forbes Road off-balance all game long en route to a 5-0 win in the first round of the PIAA Class A Baseball Championships. He scattered five hits while striking out six and walking none in six innings of work.
As a direct result of his efforts, SJCA advanced to Thursday’s PIAA quarterfinals against Halifax at a time and venue to be determined.
“I think our confidence is at an all-time high,” Macafee said during the bus ride back home from McConnellsburg. “It feels amazing to win this game. We’re excited.”
SJCA (9-9) managed just three hits at the plate, but a mixture of clutch hitting and Forbes Road mistakes made the difference. In the second inning, back-to-back errors by Forbes Road’s third baseman plated one run — and then Zane Thornburg smacked a two-out, two-RBI single for SJCA to take the 3-0 lead.
With Macafee on the mound, that’s all St. Joseph’s needed.
Macafee, a senior who’s battled injuries his entire career, threw 98 pitches Monday — and, according to his coach, 73 of those were strikes.
“He’s a D-I talent,” coach Jim Dinsmore said. “Benny was just on fire. ... He pitched the game of his career.”
Ace Cam Burris was in left field Monday after a collision last week put his pitching on hold. And Dinsmore was hesitant to use usual No. 2 Jack Mangene, after he pitched and grew tired through two rain delays last week.
So Macafee stepped up against Forbes Road (14-7) and delivered when SJCA needed him most — but not without help, of course. In the fifth frame, a line drive got past SJCA right fielder RJ Marsh, but he sprinted after the ball, threw a laser to the cutoff man in Magene and Magene then fired it to second base to get the stunned baserunner out.
“That, to me, was the play of the game,” Dinsmore added.
Mangene closed out the game with a scoreless seventh. Even SJCA isn’t sure who might pitch in Thursday’s contest, but the small-school who suffered a 4-3 loss a week ago in the district championship has options now. And that should be a scary thought for the other teams alive in the state tournament.
“They pulled themselves up,” Dinsmore said. “They want to play ball; they want to keep going. I give them a lot of credit.”