Top-seeded Xaverian falls short again

Xaverian tempted fate Thursday, needing a sixth-inning rally to beat Brooklyn rival Bishop Ford in a CHSAA Class A intersectional playoff game at Kaiser Stadium. Clippers coach Lou Piccola said his team was lucky to beat the Falcons.

“You have to come back with energy and fire and we didn’t have energy yesterday,” he said. “We got a little lucky at the end. You can’t keep winning like that. You’re on the edge.”

On Friday, Xaverian’s luck ran out. The top-seeded Clippers lost to No. 3 St. Raymond, 5-4, at St. John’s University and with it went their hopes of winning the CHSAA championship.

“We came up a little bit short,” Piccola said. “I give a lot of credit to St. Ray’s. Defensively they were a lot better than people have mentioned to us and this was the first time we saw lefties three games in a row. Maybe that’s an adjustment we have to make. But you can’t keep thinking you’re going to come back.”

Xaverian (19-3) took advantage of three second-inning walks by Ravens starter James Santiago as Ray Vega doubled to left, clearing the bases and putting his team up 3-1.

An inning later, though, the Clippers gave the lead right back as the Ravens scored four two-out runs after star catcher Elvin Soto dropped what would have been the third out when Jon Crucey’s pop up behind the plate bounced out of his glove.

“We gave them four runs with two outs and no one on after scoring three runs,” Piccola said. “In the playoffs you can’t expect to win games when you give them four runs with two outs. We missed a big play behind the plate.”

And the Clippers missed a big chance at the plate in the bottom of the seventh. A day after a walk-off win against the Falcons, it appeared the X-Men were on the verge of repeating that drama. Santiago walked Antonio Nunez and J.T. Torres to lead off the inning. St. Ray’s ace Ricky Eusebio came in, but he was also wild, walking Kevin Martir and Soto as the Clippers closed their gap to 5-4.

But Eric Kalman struck out swinging at a high fastball and then Tommy Midolo grounded into a game-ending double play as another Xaverian rally fell just short.

“We had the bases loaded with no one out in a one-run game,” Piccola said. “Their pitcher throws hard, but the bottom line is that they played flawless defensively. They made every play, they made the big plays and got themselves out of some jams.”

Despite the disappointing defeat, Piccola called his first year back as Xaverian coach a “very unique experience for people who have been out of [the game] for a while,” referring to assistant Frank Del George, the former longtime coach at St. Francis College.

“It was a very good experience for us to get to know the players,” Piccola said. “We are a very young team and we have almost everyone coming back.”

The big loss, Piccola said, is Torres, senior center fielder who will play at Iona College next year, as well as senior starting pitchers Frank Catalano and Eric Wlasiuk.

But Arizona-bound Soto returns, as do sophomore starters Kalman and Martir, junior first baseman Skyler Ortiz and closer Frank Scudiero.

“We went 19-3 in the CHSAA, losing a pair of one-run games,” Piccola said. “It was great coaching with Del George. I learned a lot and I think the kids learned a lot. We want to give them respect for the game. There are no shortcuts.”