The final out of a 9-0 victory was a strikeout looking and the post-game celebration was equally routine for Xaverian.
The Clippers had just beaten rival Bishop Ford to win the CHSAA ‘AA’ Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan division title and earn one of the top seeds for the upcoming intersectional playoffs.
But they took it in stride, like it was just another win at Shore Road, like they had been here before.
Last year, Xaverian (14-2) did the same thing and secured the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Then the Clippers lost in the semifinals, falling short of their ultimate goal.
“This is a big accomplishment, but this is not the goal we want,” shortstop Antonio Nunez said. “We want bigger things.”
Xaverian coach Lou Piccola can still recite the final inning of last season like it was yesterday. The game, and the promising season, ended with Tommy Midolo grounding into a double play. Midolo, one of several returnees, has matured into the Clippers’ “most consistent hitter this year,” part of the reason why Piccola believes his team this year is better suited to make a deep postseason run.
“We have the No. 1 seed coming out of Brooklyn/Queens and hopefully we’re more prepared,” he said. “We have a lot of kids who came back from last year and they understand that we won a championship, but this is not the one we want. The next one is the most important one.”
Xaverian has also done a good job of avenging league losses in a big way. The Clippers lost at Molloy by one run and then crushed the Stanners, 12-2, in Bay Ridge. Their other league loss came at the Parade Grounds to Bishop Ford (7-9), but Xaverian returned the favor in kind Thursday afternoon.
The formula for another blowout win Thursday was the same as its been down the stretch of the regular season. Nunez, who doubled, walked three times, stole two bases and scored three runs, did his job as the leadoff hitter, the Clippers manufactured runs and got big hits and, they made all the plays defensively and, perhaps most importantly, had solid pitching.
“They have so many different weapons – they have the hitters, the pitching and the speed,” Bishop Ford coach Mike Hanrahan said. “Guys are moving on the bases at all times. Once they get on a roll, it’s tough to put the brakes on it and their pitcher did a great job.”’
Blaise Scerbo allowed one bloop single in four innings, striking out four and hitting one batter to earn the win. Anthony Pastrana closed the game out strong, allowing one hit in the final three innings, striking out five, walking one and hitting one batter.
They are two of what Piccola said is a group of six or seven pitchers he’s comfortable with going to in the playoffs.
“It’s a staff. We don’t have a one or a two,” he said. “The key is the team with the least amount of mistakes in those types of games. Right now our key is to limit our mistakes, make contact and let other teams play defense because I think we’re as good as anyone defensively.”
Xaverian jumped in front 3-0 in the first inning on a two-run double by Kevin Martir and a sacrifice fly by Midolo. Bobby McKenna drove in two with a double to left in the second to extend the Clippers lead to 5-0.
“We were down three runs and we didn’t have much energy and when we went down five runs it might as well have been 15 runs,” Hanrahan said. “This should be a playoff atmosphere, these games mean a lot in the standings, Xaverian is in our backyard and everyone knows each other. The juices should be flowing, even when you’re down by a few runs.”
A sacrifice fly by Pittsburgh-bound catcher Elvin Soto, who was angered when he was plunked in the fifth by reliever Andrew King, and a broken-bat single up the middle by Midolo put the Clippers up 7-0 in the fourth and an RBI-single to right by Ray Vega and a run-scoring groundout by Martir concluded the scoring.
“We know we got there,” Midolo said of winning the division title, “but we still want to reach the ultimate goal of winning a city championship.”