May 5 - Ryan Bhojwani hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to give Bishop O’Connell a 3-2 win over visiting Paul VI Catholic in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference quarterfinals yesterday afternoon.
Bhojwani’s two-out game-winner, which came on the first offering from reliever Patrick Ashby, scored Anthony Avvisato and advanced the Knights (15-8) to the WCAC semifinal round for the first time since 2016. The loss could end the season for Paul VI (12-14), which is a longshot to earn a 16th consecutive VISAA Division I state tournament berth.
“You never know who’s going to be your guy to get the hit, it turned out to be a sophomore JV call-up who has had a really nice year for us,” O’Connell coach Kyle Padgett said. “A very confident at-bat there, that was great.”
O’Connell rallied from two one-run deficits, tying the game at 1-1 in the fourth on Avvisato’s RBI single and again at 2-2 on Jake Berry’s RBI single in the sixth. Berry’s two-out single came after courtesy runner Daniel Love advanced twice on passed balls and would chase Panthers starter Nick Ortega.
Colevas, meanwhile, struck out seven while allowing two runs (one earned) in five-plus innings. Knights relievers Corey Knauf and Eddie Eisert then scattered six hits in six scoreless innings, with Eisert earning the victory after coming in with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 11th. Eisert retired Matt Coritz on a ground out and Andrew Antignano with a strikeout.
“Colevas is tough, he gives everybody trouble and he’s difficult to hit,” Paul VI coach Billy Emerson said. “He does a good job of hiding the baseball, he’s got some velocity and he’s got that hammer. And when it’s right, he’s tough to deal with. Knauf had command of his fastball and his breaking ball, and that helped him tremendously.”
In the bottom of the 11th, Avvisato drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Brandon Kim’s sacrifice bunt. He’d then move up on Joe Suarez’ fly out to center field, and after Colevas was walked intentionally, came in when Bhojwani drove Ashby’s first offering into center field.
“I didn’t like that they walked him, I was pretty mad,” Bhojwani said. “I just wanted to hit, and I did.”
Padgett credited his team’s calm demeanor in its third win this season against its conference rival. “Staying even keel in a game like that with all the ups and downs,” he said. “They get an opportunity there with the bases loaded in the top of that inning and to get out of that was huge. And we did it with what has enabled us to have success and get here … we pitched. And all three guys did a great job, Colevas to start, Knauf to bridge it and Eisert there to get us out of that jam.”
Notable: Colevas and catcher Riley O’Donovan each had two of O’Connell’s nine hits, while J.P. Ottariano had a game-high three to pace Paul VI … The win was the Knights’ first in the conference tournament against the Panthers since Emerson took over at the Fairfax school in 2003. Paul VI had won the past three WCAC playoff contests between the teams … Richie Smiechowski tossed three scoreless innings after coming on for Ortega, who struck out six and was charged with two runs (one earned) in 5.2 innings … The Panthers have lost five games in walk-off fashion this season. Each time the final score was 3-2.
Quotable: “It was a great game to play in, and I’m sure it’ll be talked about for awhile. But it’ll never be anything we’ll be happy to talk about, for sure. You have some games as players and coaches that are going to stick with you forever, but you can use it as motivation too. Down the road, you can think about the things that you can do to put yourself on the other side of the coin when you have that chance again.” - Paul VI coach Billy Emerson
Next: O’Connell will travel to St. John’s for Game 1 of a best-of-three semifinal series tomorrow … Paul VI will learn its fate when the VISAA Division I state tournament field is announced on Saturday.
Photo of O’Connell’s Ryan Bhowani by Joey Kamide