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Karn-age: Senior’s walk-off hit, arm send Madison to semifinals

Karn-age: Senior’s walk-off hit, arm send Madison to semifinals
Ace: Madison pitcher Christopher Karnbach gave the fourth-seeded host a 2–1 win over No. 5 Cardozo in the public school baseball semifinals.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Christopher Karnbach single-handily advanced James Madison to the semifinals.

The senior ace allowed just one run on five hits in 106 pitches over nine innings and delivered a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth.

It gave fourth-seeded and host James Madison a 2–1 win over No. 5 Cardozo, the defending city champion, in the Public School Athletic League Class AA baseball semifinals on May 26.

“This is the greatest day of my life,” Karnbach said. “This is my last home game here. But to come out and do that is just great.”

Madison (17–2) advanced to the semifinals to face top-seeded Tottenville in a best-of-three series on May 28 at the College of Staten Island in the Knights’ first final-four appearance since 2010. Madison also won its second-round game in its final at bat in the eighth inning.

“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Knights coach Vincent Caiazza said. “They just don’t quit. We’ve done this all year long in the final innings.”

Both Karnbach and Cardozo senior ace Demitri Sanchez matched each other inning for inning, dominating the opposing lineups. The game was scoreless for the first four innings. Cardozo (15–4) didn’t have a runner in scoring position and Madison sent just two runners to second base up to that point.

“I told them before the game that they were still the defending champs,” Caiazza said. “They aren’t going to give it to you. You’re going to have to take it from them and that’s what we did.”

Cardozo was the first to strike. In the top of the fifth, it scraped together three hits. The last one was a line-drive single up the middle by junior second baseman Noah Cabrera that scored sophomore catcher Michael Coletta to give Cardozo a 1–0 lead.

Madison wasn’t down for long. It tied things up in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a little small ball.

Madison senior outfielder Jordan Wilson led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and eventually stealing second. Junior second baseman Christopher Scolavino laid down a successful sacrifice bunt to move Wilson to third. With two outs, junior catcher Richard Devita singled up the middle to score Wilson and tie things up at 1–1.

In the bottom of the seventh, it looked as if Madison was going to be set up nicely to win the game. Junior outfielder Joseph Toldeo hit a lazy fly ball to left. The ball dropped in between the outfielders and got past them. Toledo tried to stretch what should’ve been a double into a triple and was thrown out trying to take third. The game would head to extra innings.

Sanchez lost the strike zone in the bottom of the ninth after throwing more than 100 pitches. Sanchez walked both Devita and junior first baseman Shawn James. He was pulled from the game and Cardozo handed the ball to sophomore Malik Miller.

Miller faced off against Karnbach with the game in the balance. Karnbach hit a booming double in the right center field gap that scored the game’s winning run and sent Madison to the semifinals.

“He gave us everything he had,” Caiazza said.

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