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O'Neill's game shows depth as Gaels climb over Heights

May 18, 2007|by CONNER GILBERT / Staff Correspondent

St. Maria Goretti pitcher J.J. O'Neill was at the top of his game Thursday, collecting 11 strikeouts in a 4-1 victory over The Heights in the opening game of the Maryland Private Schools Class "B" Division tournament at Municipal Stadium.

O'Neill went seven innings, allowing only three hits and walking five. He was one strikeout shy of tying his career best.

"I really wanted to win this first game of the playoffs," O'Neill said. "I'd heard very little about their lineup, so I just played my game."

O'Neill was spotted a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Paul Donoghue drove in a run with an infield single. His brother, Jay Donoghue, brought home the second run by drawing a bases-loaded walk.

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Alex Zoretich added to the Gaels' lead with an RBI single in the second inning. O'Neill helped his own cause with an RBI hit in the fifth.

"We kept our heads in the game and did what we had to," said Goretti head coach John Bowen.

O'Neill worked out of a bases-loaded jam with two outs in the sixth inning with a strikeout. The Heights got its only run in the seventh on Richie Loria's sacrifice fly.

"(O'Neill) pitched the game plan," Bowen said. "He has a rubber arm."

Goretti will play the winner of Saturday's Avalon-Covenant Life game on Monday. But O'Neill said it doesn't matter who the Gaels play.

"We can beat anyone when we play as a team," he said.

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