To win the CHSAA Class AA championship, Fordham Prep needs some ‘Mac and Cheese.’
That’s the brilliant nickname star shortstop Andrew Velazquez concocted for the Rams top two pitchers – Sean McNamara and Steve Fondu.
On Wednesday, it was all Mac, who pitched a complete-game, four-hitter as Fordham Prep defeated St. Joseph by the Sea, 6-0, at Kaiser Stadium to advance to Friday night’s championship game of the double-elimination tournament.
The Rams will meet archrival Iona Prep back at St. John’s, needing two wins to claim their first city title since 2009. The sixth-seeded Gaels will clinch their first crown since 2003 with a victory Friday night at 7 p.m. live on MSGVarsity.com.
If Fordham Prep wins Friday, a winner-takes-all game will be played Sunday at 4 p.m., also at Kaiser Stadium.
“Between A.J. [Pinto] and ‘Mac and Cheese,’ we’ve got a good combo going,” Velazquez said. “With those three on the mound and the hitting, that’s the perfect combination for a city championship, I think.”
McNamara certainly did his part to get the Rams to the finals with another in what has been a long line of brilliant performances. Division I programs and scouts aren’t sitting behind the backstops with radar guns when McNamara is on the hill, but he has the efficiency of an assassin.
Quietly, the 6-foot-3 right-hander is one of the top pitchers in the city and he has the wins against the CHSAA elite – two against Iona Prep and two against St. Joseph by the Sea (17-6) – to prove it.
“He’s earned that right, no doubt about it,” Fordham Prep coach Pat Deane said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s one of the top five pitchers in high school baseball right now in the city.”
With the season on the line Wednesday, McNamara allowed just four hits, including a pair of infield singles in the seventh, struck out four and walked just one. The formula, he said was simple. Of his 84 pitches, 82 were fastball that ranges between the high-70s and low-80s.
“It’s funny I didn’t feel that great today,” McNamara said. “I don’t know, I didn’t feel I was hitting my spots as well as I normally do.”
McNamara received a huge boost early as fourth-seeded Fordham Prep (16-8) scored two runs in the first. Velazquez, who on Tuesday was picked in the seventh round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, led off with a single up the middle and was sacrificed to second by Ryan Mahoney.
Velazquez stole third and scored on catcher Joe Santigate’s errant throw. Jack Sexton then drove in Paul Pache, running for catcher Zach Leone, with a single up the middle.
The Rams tacked on two more runs in the second against Brian Russell, one of the top power pitchers in the city, on Mahoney’s two-run single to center and made it 6-0 on Robbie Lynch’s opposite-field two-run triple to right in the third.
“Once you hit third base, you realize all right, I made it 6-0, I just blew it out of the water,” Lynch said. “Sean’s not going to give up six runs.”
Lynch, who tripled to center in a 1-0 loss to Iona Prep Sunday night, is getting hot at the right time and credits hitting coach Bob McLaughlin’s work in the cage at practices.
“I’m inspired by him to do my best because I know if I do everything he tells me to do, I will do my best,” he said.
Indeed, Deane said McLaughlin deserves much of the credit for making the Rams one of the top hitting teams in the CHSAA.
“He’s relentless in the cage to the point the kids are nauseated with hitting off tees,” Deane said. “It’s in and it’s middle and it’s out.”
And now its two wins and a city title, although that will not be easy against an Iona Prep team that will throw its ace, Temple-bound Tim McCarthy Friday night. He will be opposed by Fondu. This will be the fifth meeting between the rivals and a sixth is possible Sunday.
“I have the same anxious feeling I had right before the draft. It’s right at our fingertips and its up to us to make it happen,” Velazquez said. “If we keep playing how we’re playing we should win.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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