Xaverian’s early playoff exit is fueling a fast start.
The Clippers’ baseball team bowed out early last year after back-to-back playoff losses in the Catholic High School Athletic League’s losers’ bracket — and it graduated 15 seniors — but now a much younger and hungrier group is preparing to make another run at a title.
“The whole lineup, we can hit, we can run,” said senior first basemen Xavier Vargas. “If we continue to strive the way we are striving, we are going to be a tough team to deal with.”
Xaverian still has seniors in key positions, including Vargas, shortstop Phoenix Hernandez, and outfielder Danny Ryan.
Catching will be at a premium thanks to three viable options. The starter is junior Luke McDonald, who is committed to Florida International. Lefty Chris Monti, who will bat second in the order, will also see time at designated hitter along with Pasquale Cardello.
The Clippers are currently dealing with injuries to two key starters — center fielder Louis Mandile and second baseman and No.-2 pitcher Shamus Connelly, a sophomore expected to hit in the middle of the order. Xaverian’s depth has allowed Frank Allegretti and Joseph Scaramuzzino to fill in admirably during the preseason.
This group’s speed and athleticism will make defense and manufacturing runs a huge strength.
“You won’t be able to call us a one-dimensional team,” Hernandez said. “We are going to pick it. We are going to play defense.”
That should be music to the ears of an inexperienced-but-deep pitching staff. Xaverian has eight trustworthy arms after relying heavily on Rob Amato and John Bini a year ago.
“Our pitching is good — it’s just young,” said Clipper coach Frank Del George said. “They have looked alright so far, but it is too early to tell.”
Senior ace Alex Passarella has three quality pitches, and No.-3 starter Nicholas DeSalvo can throw in the upper 80s. Senior Andrew Watter is the club’s spot starter and first guy out of the bullpen at any sign of trouble. Hernandez is taking over the closer’s role.
“I think they will go out there and throw strikes,” Del George said. “A couple of them can really throw the ball hard.”
The upperclassmen on this team understand the importance of good pitching — they got it in 2014 and watched Molloy and Farrell shut down their vaunted lineup in last season’s playoffs.
The pain that defeat wrought has this year’s group meshing quickly and focused on regaining a crown.
“We are looking to come back and win that 2016 championship,” Vargas said. “These [young] guys have come out strong. We are hoping that can continue.”