Vinny DeMaria, Tim McCarthy and Joe Finnegan joined the Iona Prep varsity baseball team as sophomores and DeMaria remembered how bitter each of his last two seasons ended.
“As a group together we all said the last two years we went out in tears in a bad way and this year we kind of wanted to have the good tears,” DeMaria said.
The Gaels accomplished that goal Friday night, beating rival Fordham Prep, 9-2, at Kaiser Stadium to win their second ever CHSAA Class AA title. DeMaria, McCarthy and Finnegan end their high school careers on a high note, but they also sent longtime coach Fred Gallo out with one more title.
Gallo, who had 533 career wins in 29 years at Iona Prep, announced during the Gaels postseason run that this would be his final year. It became a rallying cry, especially for DeMaria, whose father Vinny was a senior on Gallo’s first team in 1983. A player, Gallo described as “all-world.”
“He’s always been there for the seniors, especially for me,” the Iona College bound shortstop said. “I’ll be around and I’m sure he’s not going anywhere.”
Gallo, who also guided the Gaels to the title in 2003, will be replaced by assistant Ryan Mahoney.
“I will never lose another baseball game as the head coach,” Gallo said. “It’s a great way to go.”
While Finnegan helped get sixth-seeded Iona Prep (18-6) to the title game with a brilliant performance against No. 4 Fordham Prep (16-9) Sunday in a winners bracket game, DeMaria and McCarthy helped close out the deal Friday night.
DeMaria had a single, an RBI and two runs scored, but truly shined defensively, turning four double plays, including catching line drives in the fifth and sixth innings.
McCarthy, who located his fastball well and had an improved curveball in the later innings, went the distance, allowing two earned runs on eight hits – three coming in the seventh inning – and struck out four without a walk.
It was a fantastic performance for the Temple-bound pitcher, who also helped lead the Iona Prep basketball team to CHSAA Class A city and state titles in the winter.
“Me, Vinny and Joe Finnegan have been up here for three years and to lose in the quarters, the semis and to finally win the championship feels pretty good,” McCarthy said. “To get that second ring on the finger feels pretty good.”
Before throwing his first pitch, McCarthy had a five-run lead as the Gaels went to small ball, successfully executing three bunts to take a 5-0 lead in the first. The Rams made costly mistakes defensively – two of their four errors were in the first – and couldn’t rebound from a poor start.
“We came out a little tight, you could feel it with the team, but that’s baseball,” said Fordham Prep shortstop Andrew Velazquez, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round Tuesday. “Sometimes you make errors, it happens. We didn’t bounce back from those errors. All night we hit the ball hard, just right at people.”
The miscues continued to haunt Fordham Prep in the third inning as right fielder Kevin Flynn lost a ball in the sun and no one covered the plate as catcher Zach Leone made a catch in foul territory, allowing Matt Henry to tag up and score from third.
After scoring twice in the third, Iona Prep tacked on two more runs in the fifth and once again it was an error, this by Velazquez, that allowed a run to score as the Gaels opened up a 9-1 lead.
“They were mistakes we haven’t made all year,” Fordham Prep coach Pat Deane said.
Strangely, Iona Prep scored its first-inning runs using five Fordham Prep helmets. The Gaels had left their helmets in a garage back at the school.
For the remaining six innings, Iona Prep used helmets provided by Vinny DeMaria, Sr., who coaches at Woodlands High School.
“He had in his trunk his helmets, which happened to be dark, navy blue, which really didn’t look bad,” Gallo said.
No, they didn’t and neither did Gallo when center fielder Dan Fisher doused him with ice water after the final out.
“You know what you miss? You miss the camaraderie with the kids,” Gallo said. “During a season you start the first Saturday in March and basically you’re really with them every day for 90 days.”
Contact Dylan Butler at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter: @Dylan_Butler