Tommy Burns is so thoroughly enchanted with the ramifications that come with being the ace at Don Bosco, he sometimes can get carried away with a sense of invincibility before reality settles in.
“As a senior, I want the ball every day,” Burns said. “But, do to the fact that my arm would probably fall off, I know I can’t do that.”
Suffice it to say, first-year coach Mike Rooney has found a way to appease Burns’ appetite for innings. By earmarking the right-hander to have the ball in just about every big game on the Bosco schedule, Rooney has entrusted his senior with a world of responsibility.
Burns repaid that act on Monday by putting together his best outing of the season, fashioning a four-hit gem stamped by a dozen strikeouts as Don Bosco, No. 7 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, extracted an early-season measure of revenge with a 7-2 triumph over top-ranked and previously-unbeaten St. Joseph in Montvale.
Armed with a fastball that touched 90 miles per hour and was accentuated by a hard-biting curve, Burns, who dropped a 2-0 decision to St. Joseph on April 4, effectively neutralized the Green Knights lineup that was generating 8.8 runs and 9.7 hits per game. He displayed his competitive resolve throughout the contest as the St. Joseph put the leadoff batter aboard in five of the seven innings but mustered just one run – Nick Wolyniec’s solo homer to open the bottom of the sixth.
“This was absolutely my best outing so far this season,” said Burns, who walked two and was touched for just one earned run. “I’ve been struggling personally and mentally. It just gets aggravating. I came out ready to pitch my best game so far. I put everything together.”
“It’s pretty simple. When you look at our schedule, every big game you know that 21 is going to get the ball,” Rooney said, referring to Burns’ jersey number. “For a kid to know that coming into the season and to not only accept it, but absolutely assume it’s his responsibility, that takes a special competitor and that’s what Tommy is first and foremost. Whether he has his best stuff or not, his heart is tremendous.”
For the first four innings, Burns found himself locked up in a duel with St. Joseph senior right-hander Nick Cuono (4-1). The two matched zeroes until the top of the fifth.
Ted Cebulski led off by legging out an infield single despite a superb diving stop and throw from shortstop Chris Chiaradio. Pete Petrosino turned an attempted sacrifice bunt into a base hit to put runners at first and second.
A wild pitch sent the runners in motion and an errant throw to nail Cebulski sailed beyond third base and then skipped past left field enabling Cebulski to score as well as Petrosino all the way from first base.
“It got to a point where you felt like you wanted a guy on just so Tommy could catch his breath,” Rooney said. “It was big for the guys to realize they don’t have to press…just let the game come to them and it will start to turn.”
“We just needed a base runner to try and get a run across,” Cebulski said. “Pete had the tremendous bunt. Then, a wild throw and the next thing you know, we’re up, 2-0, without getting anything special.”
After Wolyniec blistered a 1-1 offering from Burns that easily cleared the scoreboard beyond the fence in left to pare the deficit in half for St. Joseph (13-1), Don Bosco (10-3), which extended its winning streak to seven, paraded 11 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh when it struck for five runs.
Senior first baseman Matt Dacey belted a two-run homer to right, Joe Purritano, who went 2-for-5, delivered an RBI single, Mike Mecca drew a bases-loaded walk and Grant Van Orden was hit by pitch to force in a run.
“I was talking to Rooney beforehand and asked him if I was going to bunt,” Dacey said prior to unloading his sixth home run of the season. “He said no, swing away. I’m glad he did. I worked the count to 3-1 and put a good swing on it.”
St. Joseph got a run back in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double from Israel Quiroz. Matt Kozuck had a double in the third and St. Joseph moved the runner to third with one out before he was erased on a failed squeeze bunt attempt.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner