Elvin Soto had plenty of motivation when he took the short walk down Shore Road for the Brooklyn/Queens Class AA division showdown with Archbishop Molloy last Wednesday.
The Stanners won the first meeting by one run and the Pittsburgh-bound catcher didn’t believe that was an accurate depiction of his team.
“You always want to end up in first place in your division and because they beat us last time in a close game,” Soto said when asked why this game was circled on his calendar. “We just figured we’d stick it to them now. We were real excited since yesterday coming in from practice. We were pretty hyped. We knew we were going to take this one today.”
The Clippers showed up in a big way, crushing Molloy, 12-2, to all but wrap up another division title and a top-four seed in the upcoming intersectional playoffs.
Soto, who is one of the top pro prospects in the city, came up huge. The senior went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, two runs scored and a walk.
“This time we came hungry,” Soto said.
Xaverian broke the game open with a six-run third inning and Antonio Nunez was the catalyst by legging out an infield with two outs. Second baseman Evan Kearney made the play deep in the hole, but Nunez beat Molloy pitcher Mike Auriemmo to the bag at first after first baseman Jonathan Ramon also chased after the ball.
Bob McKenna followed with an RBI single to left, Kevin Martir drove in two with a single up the middle and Tommy Midolo had a run-scoring hit to right.
“We go the way Tony goes,” Xaverian coach Lou Piccola said. “Between [Gabe] Hernandez and Nunez, those are two players who are terrific around the bases and Tony is starting to hit the ball a bit better.”
The Clippers had 13 hits scattered throughout their lineup, which is in stark contrast to the first meeting against Auriemmo and Molloy when the senior left-hander scattered five hits and no earned runs in a complete-game victory.
This time, Auriemmo was chased in the fourth after giving up nine runs on nine hits.
“We had a lot of two-out hits, two-strike hits, we were working the pitcher,” Soto said. “All our outs were ropes, line drives to guys. Everything was hard hit.”
Xaverian tacked on three more runs in the fourth and three in the fifth, highlighted by Domingo Sosa’s leadoff home run to center and Soto’s two-run double to right. That was more than enough run support for Blaise Scerbo, who allowed two earned runs on seven hits in five innings.
Joan Pena closed the game out for the Clippers, striking out six of the seven batters he faced.
Xaverian, which has a two-game lead over Archbishop Molloy with three games left in the regular season, appears to be peaking at the right time.
“This is what you want ending up the regular season and going into the playoffs,” Soto said. “Our team chemistry is high. If we keep playing like this we can take the whole thing.”