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Alvarez leads Nazareth to championship

Holy moley: Nazareth’s Shamariah McCullough was part of a Kingsmen offense that racked up hits and cruised to a 5-2 victory over La Salle on May 31.
Community News Group / Laura Amato

A do-or-die situation in the sizzling heat of Canarsie’s American Legion baseball fields was no sweat for Nazareth’s Rolando Alvarez.

The right-hander came up big with his arm and his bat, leading Nazareth to a 5–2 victory over La Salle Academy on May 31 as the Kingsmen avoided elimination and booked its ticket to a third-straight Catholic High School Athletic Association Class A championship game.

“Before the game [head coach Oggie Quiles] told us, ‘We got to see where our hearts are,’ ” Alvarez said. “This game showed us.”

Alvarez connected on two booming doubles and drove in a run to back a virtuoso pitching performance. The senior held the Cardinals to four hits and racked up 12 strikeouts, including the last seven batters he faced. The Kingsmen return to the title game for a rematch against Monsignor Scanlan — undefeated so far in the double-elimination tournament. The Cardinals handed Nazareth (16–1) its first loss of the season on May 28.

Nazareth had to contend with La Salle (11–6) before the Kingsmen could think about a championship, however, and a rematch with Scanlan.

Nursing a two-run lead in the second inning with runners on second and third and one out, Alvarez felt he was “squeezed” by the home plate umpire on a 2-2 pitch — and he let his feelings be known. The home plate umpire jawed right back.

“I let my anger get to me quickly,” Alvarez admitted. “Once that happened I calmed down and had to adjust to the strike zone.”

And adjust he did, wiggling out of the threat by giving up a lone run. Another Cardinal run scored in the third to cut the Kingsmen advantage to 3–2. Then Alvarez settled in, limiting LaSalle to a lone base runner over the game’s final four innings while collecting nine strikeouts.

La Salle’s Chris Pimental was a hard-luck loser, surrendering five runs on six hits while notching 10 strikeouts. His defense failed him in the first inning as Shamariah McCullough and Agustin Quiles reached on infield errors. McCullough was thrown out trying to advance, but Quiles scored on a double by Alvarez, who in turn came home on a Jordan Serrano single.

Leading off the third with a shot in the gap between center and right field, Alvarez came around to score the game’s fourth run on a single by Willie Navarro, who eventually scored on an errant throw at third base, capping the scoring.

Then Alvarez’s capable arm came into play — and the Kingsmen’s ace didn’t falter.

“Once he gets going we have confidence he’s going to [dominate],” said catcher Gus Quiles.

Whatever the situation, Nazareth’s coach has confidence in his team sporting six seniors — and he knows they’re anxious to prove themselves on the diamond.

“They’re just hungry,” Quiles said. “They’ve had an unbelievable year so far and are trying to cap it off with a championship.”

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