Xaverian clips Fordham Prep in seeding round
Even before assistant Nick DeFendis screamed it from the first base coaches box, Sal Taormina already had it in his head.
Taormina struck out in each of his first three at-bats, but the Xaverian first baseman had an opportunity to make up for his offensive woes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
Clippers coach Lou Piccola tried to offer Taormina some words of encouragement, but the senior wasn’t having any of it.
“Coach came over to me and I said, you know what coach? I got it,” Taormina said.
He certainly did. Taormina hit a game-winning, two-run single to lift Xaverian to a 3-2 win over Fordham Prep in a CHSAA Class AA seeding round game at Shore Road in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Saturday morning.
Taormina’s hit capped a three-run, seventh-inning for Xaverian, which plays St. Raymond Sunday at Richmond County Youth Complex Sunday for the No. 1 overall seed in the CHSAA Class AA championship tournament, which starts Wednesday.
“It speaks to the character of the overall team,” Taormina said. “We all know we have to get the job done and whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, when it comes down to that one moment you have to focus and do your best.”
Taormina wasn’t the only Xaverian player looking for redemption in the bottom of the seventh.
Second baseman Julian Lanfranco’s throwing error allowed Fordham Prep star Andrew Velazquez to score following the Virginia Tech-bound shortstop’s leadoff triple to right to give the Rams a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth.
Jack Sexton’s sacrifice fly scored Ryan Mahoney to double the Rams advantage later in the frame.
With runners at first and second and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Lanfranco laced a double to left-center off Rams reliever Andrew Pucillo, pulling Xaverian (17-1), ranked No. 2 in New York City by MSG Varsity, within one.
“I knew I had to help out the team because it was me who made that throwing error so I had to help them come back and got a double,” Lanfranco said.
With runners at second and third, Pucillo intentionally walked George Washington-bound Eric Kalman to load the bases. It was the correct move tactically since it set up a force at any base and since Fordham Prep starter Steve Fondu, who was brilliant through six innings, struck out Taormina three times.
“Baseball is a game of getting a second chance, a third chance and, in this case, a fourth chance,” Piccola said. “Today it worked.”
Taormina was happy not to face Fondu, who scattered four hits and stuck out nine in six scoreless innings, for a fourth time. He was even happier when Pucillo fell behind 3-1, knowing he’d see a pitch he would like.
When Pucillo threw an inside fastball, Taormina took it up the middle, scoring Boston College-bound Gabe Hernandez and Lanfranco to win the game.
Brian Rosa picked up the win, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out one with one walk in three innings of relief. Ace Blaise Scerbo , a Seton Hall-bound senior, allowed just one hit, striking out four with one walk in four innings for Xaverian, which is hoping to defending its CHSAA title as the No. 1 overall seed.
Taormina said it would be a big accomplishment, especially since he said many wrote the Clippers off when Maryland-bound catcher Kevin Martir transferred to Grand Street Campus before the season.
“The whole we stuck with it, ended up being the No. 1 seed going into seeding and we want to be the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs,” Taormina said. “We want to do it again.”
No. 11 Fordham Prep (13-6), which won the Bronx/Westchester division title less than 24 hours earlier, will take on Moore Catholic Sunday in a critical game. The winner gets the No. 3 overall seed, while the loser could see St. Joseph by the Sea in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament.
“We don’t want to play St. Joe’s again, we already lost to them,” Velazquez said. “But I think we can match up with any team, but you want to go the easier route, especially earlier in the playoffs.”
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