Xavieran was in control. The Clippers led by three runs and were hitting Fordham Prep pitcher Steve Fondu, who was beating them in the seeding round Saturday before being pulled.
The Rams would go on to score nine unanswered runs and stun the defending CHSAA intersectional champions 9-3 in the winner's bracket of the Class AA baseball championship round Thursday night at St. John’s University. Xaverian must now come back 2:30 p.m. Friday at Kaiser Stadium and take on division rival Molloy facing elimination.
Xaverian's Julian Lanfranco (l.) tags Fordham Prep' Robbie Lynch at second base.
Photos: Xaverian-Fordham Prep
“We couldn’t come through it,” shortstop Gabe Hernandez said. “Once somebody failed we were a little lost.”
A botched run down at third in the top of the third inning opened the door for two more Fordham Prep runs after one scored on the play. Piccola felt starter John Pena and reliever Frank Kaplan did not make enough quality pitches to finish off Rams hitters, who he credited with forcing long at bats. Fordham Prep scored two more runs in the fourth on a single by Zach Leone and broke the game open with two more in the sixth and seventh. The Bronx school pounded out 12 hits and star leadoff hitter Andrew Velasquez was 3-for-3 with two walks, scored three runs and drove in one.
“Too many lapses,” Piccola said. “They did not have the focus to recover.”
While Xaverian (19-2) made an uncharacteristic four errors, the Rams (15-7) and Fondu settled down after the second inning. After that he allowed just one hit. The Furman-bound right-hander allowed no runs on four hits in the seeding round, but Xaverian rallied for a 3-2 run against the Fordham bullpen. Then Clippers felt they had him scouted well coming into this game. Their bats however were again quiet.
“We were like this kid is going to challenge us with his fastball outside,” Hernandez said.
Xaverian has lost just twice all season and have gone unbeaten in the postseason up until now. The Brooklyn powerhouse will have a different challenge ahead of it if the team hopes to repeat. The Clippers feel like they can put this loss behind them and focus on Molloy even with Senior Mass later in the day Friday.
“It’s up to them,” Piccola said. “It’s not up to me. We haven’t had a lot of adversity throughout the year and now we do. We’ll see what type of team we’re made of.”
Fordham Prep, Lou Piccola, Xaverian, The Clippers, The Clippers, Steve Fondu, Gabe Hernandez, Frank Kaplan, St. JohnвЂ™s University, Clippers, Julian Lanfranco, Piccola