Clipped: Xaverian’s bid to repeat as champs takes hit
Long before the first-inning triple play and subsequent ejection of star second baseman Alex Maldonado, Justin Giammarino’s ineffective four innings and his team’s inability to get a clutch hit, Robbie Duran knew the Xaverian baseball team was in trouble.
“Before the game started I had a funny feeling because when we were taking infield/outfield, nobody was into the game,” the Clippers third baseman said. “Farrell came out and they were more into it.”
Monsignor Farrell jumped in front in the first inning, tacked on three more runs in the third and two more in the fifth to defeat the top-seeded Clippers, 6-1, in a CHSAA Class A intersectional quarterfinal round game at Cardinal Spellman HS in the Bronx Thursday.
Unlike a come-from-behind seeding round victory a week earlier, when Xaverian scored three runs in the seventh to defeat Farrell, the Clippers couldn’t bounce back from an early 4-0 hole.
“We kind of put pressure on ourselves instead of playing baseball,” Duran said. “The first couple of innings everyone was scared and stuff. That’s not us. We usually come out with a bang, but today it didn’t roll our way.”
Maldonado left the game with a bang, ejected for failing to slide into home plate in Farrell’s 6-4-3-2 triple play in the bottom of the first inning. Not only did the Clippers not score after putting runners at first and second, their star second baseman will serve a two-game suspension.
It was a play that changed the course of the game and could greatly impact the Xaverian baseball team’s playoff run.
Trailing 1-0 in the first inning, the Clippers put runners on first and second when Anthony Hajjar hit a tailor-made double play ball to shortstop Nick Delprete. He flipped to second baseman Joe Geloso, who fired to first baseman Charlie Lopez.
Xaverian coach Dennis Canale went aggressive, sending home Maldonado, who started at second. Lopez turned, fired a perfect ball to catcher Mike Bennett, who was run over by Maldonado.
“It really got us all pumped and set the tone for the whole game,” Farrell pitcher Mike Rafaniello said.
Indeed, momentum clearly switched to Farrell (12-7), which scored three runs in the third to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Canale pulled Giammarino after a leadoff walk in the fifth inning.
“Justin just wasn’t on his game,” Canale said. “I have to give credit to Farrell. They were sky high in this game. They did a terrific job.”
Xaverian (17-3) managed just two hits off Rafaniello, but threatened to rally in the sixth after the senior right-hander hit Hajjar and walked Duran. But reliever Andrew DelMastro fanned both Joe Cespulio and Nolan Smalls before inducing pinch hitter Elvis Soto into an inning-ending pop out to Gary Boardman at third base.
Xaverian, which entered the playoffs as the top seed and defending champion, will have a tougher road to get back to the title game. But the Clippers are still confident.
“We won 16 straight games during the regular season,” Duran said. “We can win three in a row (in the playoffs).”
The Clippers, though, won’t play again until Sunday against either Archbishop Stepinac or St. Joseph by the Sea. That’s an advantage, according to Canale.
“I think we should be thinking about this,” Canale said. “I want to have a skull session with my kids, get them back on a high note. Sometimes when you play right away when you’re down it’s not very good. I want to try and take the sting away.”
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019