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Big Fourth Lifts St. Thomas Aquinas Past Nova

Caleb Roberts had two RBIs and a run for the Raiders.

A rivalry that barely needs an introduction continued on Monday as the Nova Titans hosted longtime rival St. Thomas Aquinas. The visiting Raiders rode the momentum of a monster fourth inning to claim a 10-5 comeback victory, their eleventh straight win in the series.

With one out in the fourth, St. Thomas (3-3) put nine straight batters on base to break things wide open. The Raiders went from trailing by two runs to leading by six when it was all said and done. After Chris Ruckdeschel singled to get it going, second baseman Chris Valencia crushed the first pitch he saw to the deepest part of center field for a standup double that put both runners in scoring position and electrified the offense.

“The first at-bat he got me jammed on a fastball inside, so I knew he was going to bring the fastball again so I just jumped on it and took it for a ride,” Valencia said. “It felt great to put my team in a good position to win. It was very hype; my boys all played together and we got the ‘dub’.”

The Raiders began to pile up the hits and runs to take control. A passed ball plated Ruckdeschel, Jake Buxbaum tied things with up with an RBI, Jarret Kappelman then singled through the right side and Andres Antonini reached on an error that loaded the bases. Cade Fergus followed with an RBI that gave St. Thomas the lead, and both Isaiah Perry and Caleb Roberts added RBIs after being hit by a pitch.

Earl Semper then delivered a back-breaker with a roller that got past the diving second baseman to allow two more runs to score. Ruckdeschel finished off the big inning with a sac-fly RBI on a liner to right field.

Nova’s Jordan Campbell went 2-for-3 with a walk.

Having gone from trailing by a pair to now commanding a big lead, Raiders starter Blake Hely settled in from there. The right-hander went through the fifth inning on 86 total pitches, scattering three hits and three walks while striking out seven.

“In the third we got down by two and made a couple of errors, but we were able to put up eight in the top of the fourth. So after that I was just able to let them hit it and put the ball in play and trust my defense,” Hely said. “It’s a big game and last year we were not able to play them, so nobody on this team has actually played them before. So to be able to get the ball tonight and come out and get a win for my team is huge.”

The Titans strung together a valiant rally effort in the seventh. Isaiah Goodman singled, Matthew Patella was hit by a pitch and Gabriel Paulson lined an RBI single to right field. Pinch-hitter Dylan Kahn then smacked a liner into left field that drove in both base runners. A wild pitch allowed Kahn to advance to third, but Raiders relief pitcher Michael Muley buckled down and induced a ground out and an infield flyout that ended the contest.

Earl Semper reached base twice, including a two-RBI single during an eight-run fourth inning.

Nova (5-1) got the scoring started in the bottom of the third. Catcher Michael Gonzalez singled through the left side and was replaced on the base paths by courtesy-runner Asdin Santiago, who quickly advanced around the diamond and scored when Goodman reached on an error off a sacrifice-bunt attempt. A throwing error also allowed Goodman to come home for the early 2-0 lead.

After taking the momentum in the fourth, St. Thomas added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth. Fergus reached on an error and advanced to third base when Perry reached on a bunt single. A balk called plated Fergus, and Perry swiped third base to set himself to then score thanks to an RBI groundout from Roberts.

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