By Five Boro Sports
His teammates were gone, some already in the St. John’s University parking lot. But Robbie Duran remained in the visitor’s dugout at Kaiser Stadium. It was as if the Xaverian third baseman was holding onto the final moments of his high-school career.
It all ended too soon for Duran and his teammates. The goal from the start of the season was to become the first team in more than 30 years to repeat as CHSAA Class A intersectional champion. That dream vanished last Wednesday afternoon following a 4-3 loss to Fordham Prep in the semifinal round.
“It’s a tough loss for everybody,” Duran said. “It’s just one of those things you have to go through in live and just move on. It happens to the best, it happened to the New York Yankees. It’s part of life.”
“There’s parity in this league,” Xaverian coach Dennis Canale said. “When you get down to the final eight in the intersectionals, there’s not too many holes out there. You have to work hard. We just didn’t work hard enough, I guess.”
Duran, who was such a big part of last year’s title run and this season’s success, was one of the goats for the Clippers on Wednesday. He had two errors, one an off-balanced throwing error that allowed Fordham Prep to score two runs in the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead.
“It’s a play that 99 out of 100 times I make,” the senior third baseman said. “I just didn’t come up with it.”
Canale also blamed himself. He made a judgment call to start Justin Giammarino instead of Steve Kaplan and the left-hander struggled, giving up all four runs, two earned, on five hits in three-plus innings.
Kaplan allowed three infield hits the rest of the way.
“Kaplan was outstanding,” Canale said. “It was my choice, it could have been Steve on the mound or Justin. It was the manager’s decision, but obviously it was the wrong decision today.”
Top-seeded Xaverian (18-4) chipped away, scoring one run in the fourth and another in the fifth on Anthony Hajjar’s RBI single to right-center field. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Clippers appeared to have one more comeback in them, as Elvin Soto belted a double to left-center off starter Kenny O’Brien, who was pulled for ace Sal Lisanti.
But Lisanti plunked Hajjar and then Duran hit the ball hard to the right side of the infield, eating up second baseman Mike Masci, allowing Soto to score to cut the Clippers deficit to 4-3.
“When that ball that I hit got through I said, this game is ours,” Duran said. “I thought momentum was going to switch and we were going to come out with the win.”
But it wasn’t to be. With Hajjar representing the tying run at third base, catcher Nolan Smalls was caught looking at strike three, a fastball that painted the inside corner. Just like that, Xaverian’s once-promising season was over.
“We didn’t get the clutch hits and we didn’t make the plays when we needed to and came out on the short end of the stick,” the Fairfield-bound senior pitcher/first baseman said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow.”