Final countdown: Xaverian books ticket to CHSAA championship

Steven Pastrana exorcised some demons and helped lift Xaverian into the CHSAA Class AA championship tournament final all with one quality outing yesterday.

The senior right-hander allowed four hits in five scoreless innings as the Clippers defeated No. 3 Iona Prep, 4-0, at Kaiser Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University.

“He did a phenomenal job,” Xaverian coach Lou Piccola said of Pastrana. “I knew Steven wanted the ball so much. He deserved to be out there today. He told me all week he’s ready.”

Top-seeded Xaverian (20-2), undefeated in the double elimination tournament, advances to this Friday night’s final at St. John’s.

“Last year it was tough losing that game,” Pastrana said. “We worked hard last year, but we worked even harder this year to get where we are. We’ve got one more game left and hopefully we’ll go out with a bang.”

Pastrana was on the same St. John’s mound for a playoff-ending loss to St. Raymond last year, but he came up huge against Iona Prep. His biggest pitch actually came in the first inning, a fastball on the outside corner on a 3-2 count with one out and the bases loaded. He then got Jack McDermott to pop out to second to get out of the jam unscathed.

“That was a big inning, to get out of it with no runs was big,” Pastrana said. “I threw 32 pitches that inning. I was a little tired at the end but I finished strong and that’s what matters.”

While Iona Prep (17-6) put the leadoff batter on in five of the seven innings, the Gaels stranded seven runners. Xaverian was much more efficient, manufacturing runs in the second and fourth innings on sacrifice flies by Gabe Hernandez and Domingo Sosa, respectively.

The Clippers added two more insurance runs in the sixth as Sosa doubled deep to left to drive in Victor Bautista, who reached on a two-out infield single as the ball struck Vinny DeMaria on a bad hop.

“I came in there swinging first pitch,” Sosa said. “He threw it down the middle and I just turned and hit it. I just came up there confident thinking I was going to hit it and I hit it.”

Hernandez followed with a single to right, scoring Sosa, and the Clippers had a 4-0 lead.

“I’ve been slumping the whole year, but throughout this tournament I said I have to work hard, this is crunch time,” Hernandez said.

Blaise Scerbo came in for Pastrana, who allowed a leadoff single by Cristian Fiorito in the sixth, to close out the game and send the Clippers back to the title game for the first time since winning the championship in 2008.

“It’s really special because I really believe we earned it,” Piccola said. “We worked hard and we continue to work hard every day. Come to one of our practices, this is no joke here. … This is by no accident.”

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