Xaverian continues to excel with it back against the wall.
The Clippers won seven elimination games on its way to the Catholic High School Athletic Association Class AA Intersectional baseball title last season. It gutted out the first of six it will need to take to do it again.
Mason Marino’s walk-off double in the eighth inning gave second-seeded Xaverian a 3–2 victory over No. 4 Fordham Prep in the loser’s bracket of the Catholic championship tournament Thursday afternoon at Richmond County Youth Complex.
“Coach told me to get my foot down early,” Marino said. “I got it down. Straight fastball down the middle, it was the perfect pitch.”
Xaverian (18–4) put itself in this position by suffering a 2–0 loss to division rival and seventh-seeded Bishop Molloy the day before in its tournament opener. There wasn’t any panic from the Clippers with ace Rob Amato going and most of its roster knowing what it is like to take this route to a crown.
“We always seem to get ourselves in trouble,” leftfielder Nick Meola said. “Usually we always find a way to work it out.”
It was Meola’s lined double to left with one out that got the eighth inning started. Marino brought him home one batter later. Clippers coach Frank Del George hopes the two big hits can get the recently quiet bats going.
Xaverian grabbed a 1–0 lead on a Louis Mandile fielder’s choice and tied the score at 2–2 thanks to a fourth-inning sac fly by Xavier Vargas against Rams starter Christopher Calamari.
“I’m hoping that’s going to build up a little bit of momentum offensively and trying to get our bats going again,” Del George said.
If they don’t, Xaverian will need to continue to look to its pitching to carry the campaign. Amato allowed two runs on four hits over four innings of work. Reliever Steve Catuogno did not allow a run and gave up three hits the rest of the way. Catuogno has been strong in that role all season. He stranded Fordham Prep star Conor McNamara at second after he led off the frame with a double.
“He’s done a great job,” Meola said. “He is one of the clutch players on the team. Just like today.”
Xaverian will need to continue to be clutch if it wants to repeat as champion. It advances to play No. 8 Monsignor Farrell on Sunday at St. Joseph by the Sea. It is win or go home again, but Xaverian has thrived when it is.
“We did it last year,” Marino said. “We can definitely do it this year.”