MORAGA -- A promising start eventually faded away for the St. Mary's High baseball team, which lost to Justin-Siena-Napa 7-2 in Saturday's North Coast Section Division IV championship game.
Three batters into the game, the No. 2 seed Panthers (20-11) had the lead when Max Goldstein hit a ringing double to drive in a run. St. Mary's loaded the bases with one out, but the damage was limited as only one additional run scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Ultsch.
An inning later, two St. Mary's batters reached to chase Justin-Siena's starting pitcher Andrew Keown after just 1¿2/3 innings. But the Braves' Brett Bonfigli entered and quieted the Panthers' bats over 4¿1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
St. Mary's had just two hits over the game's final five innings and Brendan Natuzzi pitched a scoreless seventh inning for top-seeded Justin Siena (23-7), which won its first NCS title since capturing three straight from 2003-05.
The Panthers were looking to win their second straight NCS and third since 2009.
After not capitalizing on its early opportunities, St. Mary's fell behind for good in the bottom of the second. A bases-loaded walk -- one of four free passes in the inning by Panthers' starter Andre Nnebe -- drove in the first run. RBI singles by Cole Cavalli and Clay Dunkle gave Justin-Siena the lead.
The Braves tacked on three more runs in the fourth to chase Nnebe from the game and help put the game out of reach.
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Justin-Siena 7, St. Mary's 2
St. Mary's 200 000 0-- 2 5 1
Justin-Siena 030 310 x-- 7 7 1
Nnebe, Cohen (4) and Giuntini. Keown, Bonfigli (2), Natuzzi (7) and Dunkle. W: Bonfigli. L: Nnebe. 2B: Goldstein (SM), O'Farrell (SM). Records: St. Mary's 20-11, Justin-Siena (23-7). Highlights: SM -- Rudy 2 for 3, Goldstein 1 for 4, RBI, run. JS -- Bonfigli 4 1/3 IP, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts; Hercules 2 for 2, 2 runs, RBI, Cavalli 1 for 1, RBI, run, 2 walks.