Go-go Clippers use speed to run past underdog Regis
Xaverian isn’t slugging its way through this postseason. The Clippers are doing it with speed, bunting and singles hitters.
It’s old-fashioned small ball, Bay Ridge style.
No. 8 Regis was the latest victim in a 9-3 loss in the opener of the CHSAA Class A intersectional double elimination round at St. John’s University’s Jack Kaiser Stadium Wednesday afternoon.
Top-seeded Xaverian (18-2), the defending city champions, scored nine unanswered runs after trailing by two runs early. The Clippers had a pair of four-run innings, each built on speed, hitting the ball where it was pitched and forcing the issue. Of their nine runs, only one crossed the plate on an extra-base hit, Hussan Evans’ triple off the centerfield fence.
“We got some rabbits at the top of the order and rabbits at the bottom,” Clippers coach Dennis Canale said. “In the wood bat era, you got to play little ball. Personally, I like the small ball game.”
“You can tell by my hair,” he said, lifting up his cap to show his silver strands, “I’m from that era. It’s fun. You get more people involved.”
Regis (10-14) will face St. Peter’s at Fordham University tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in an elimination game, while Xaverian draws Monsignor Farrell at St. John’s University at 4:30 p.m. in the winners’ bracket.
Despite lacking his best stuff and usual pinpoint control, ace Anthony Hajjar pitched into the sixth inning, picking up the win. Reliever Steven Kaplan got the final six outs.
The game turned in the second when Xaverian exploded, in its own way.
Adrian Rivera loaded the bases with a bunt single down the third-base line and with two outs, leadoff man Alex Maldonado beat out an infield single, scoring Joey Cospuglia with the Clippers’ first run. Timothy Nunez also scored on the play, taking the extra base on first baseman Chris Bates’ fielding error. J.T. Torres added a two-run single.
“We got a lot of guys that can run,” Hajjar said. “It’s just a matter of getting guys on base and getting good reads.”
In the fourth, with two outs and nobody on, Hajjar, Robbie Duran and Nolan Smalls laced consecutive run-scoring singles, waiting on Regis starter Joe Schade’s changeup. Just like that, Xaverian had turned a two-run deficit into a six-run lead and, eventually, a blowout victory.
“I had faith in my guys; I knew we weren’t going to give up,” Maldonado said. “We’re a fighting ballclub.”
As much as the small ball attack has ignited the offense, whether Xaverian can become the first team to repeat as city champions since Archbishop Molloy in 1977 will ultimately come down to whether or not the pitching staff can hold up. Hajjar was shaky at times, but managed to hold firm at key moments.
In the second, he allowed two runs, but avoided further damage by inducing Bates to hit into a 4-6-3 double play. In the third, he got Dan Morris to fly out to left field with the bases loaded. He settled down in his final two-plus innings of work, gaining the feel for his pitches and pounding the strike zone.
“The second and third innings, it felt like it wasn’t me,” Hajjar said. “I was able to pick it up and gain velocity.”
The win moves Xaverian closer to another title, although there is a long way to go. Canale has made sure his team isn’t overconfident. He has made it a point to tell them they can lose to anybody, that everyone in the city is gunning for them. He also hasn’t shied away from expressing what winning another title would mean.
“At least we get to talk about it,” Canale said. “I’m not going to say we’re going to do it. Everyone has to have a goal. We have incentive.”
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019