Moments after Matt Maher’s fielding error gave John Adams the lead, he sat in the dugout by himself to collect his thoughts. Madison coach Vinny Caiazza went over to his senior third baseman.
“You’re gonna get up,” Caiazza said, “and you are going to either tie the game or win it for us.”
Maher shook off the error and two previous strikeouts to lift the fourth-seeded Knights to a thrilling 6-4 victory in nine innings over No. 13 John Adams in the second round of the PSAL Class A baseball playoffs. His ninth-inning, three-run homer sent Madison into the quarterfinals, two innings after his two-out, two-strike, RBI single sent the game into extra innings.
“One of the best feelings,” Maher said of his walk-off round-tripper. “The ball kept going. I realized if we lost, it would be my fault. I had to make up for it, to help my team. … Most people trot around the bases, but I ran as fast as I could. I wanted to get back to my team to celebrate the win.”
The dramatic postseason victory is nothing new to the Knights (18-0). Last year, they reached the semifinals on the strength of three consecutive one-run wins, two coming in their last at-bat. In the opening round on Wednesday, Madison squeaked out a 2-1 win over No. 29 Bryant. Against Adams (16-2), the Queens A Mid-West champions, the Brooklyn powerhouse came back four times from one-run deficit, including twice in its final at-bat.
“I’m losing my hair or its turning gray,” Caiazza joked. “We don’t have any superstars; we just find ways to win. It makes us better. We’re in every ballgame with pitching and defense and things like this happen.”
Down 3-2 entering the seventh, Mann walked to start the frame and was on second when Maher roped a single to right with two strikes and two outs. In the ninth, down 4-3, Maher came up with runners on second and third. He drilled Jeffrey Valera’s low-and-in offering well over the right-field wall.
“I wanted the bat in my hands,” he said. “I wanted to be able to control the situation.”
Joe Cali allowed just one earned run on five hits in 5 2/3 and Matt Ecock picked up the win in relief, going 3-1/3. Chris Mann scored two runs, Joe Calascione drove in a run, and Joe Abadia scored once.
The win set up a quarterfinal showdown with No. 5 Norman Thomas, the defending champions, on Tuesday as this paper went to press.