By Five Boro Sports
Grounders in the infield might be an adventure, and at times runs are about as hard to come by as a parking spot in East Elmhurst. There are more talented teams with more high-profile players than McClancy, but the Crusaders are a gritty bunch with a never-say-die mentality.
That was on display Thursday afternoon when McClancy rallied from three two-run deficits to score three runs in the seventh inning to defeat Queens rival Holy Cross 6-5 in a CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Class A baseball game. A two-out, bases-loaded walk to Kevin Briffa capped the Crusaders’ stunning comeback.
“I don’t know if we’re the most talented group, but we’re tough and we battle,” McClancy Coach Nick Melito said. “That’s what I like about them. They’re a good group to coach. That’s a good team we beat and it’s a good comeback.”
Holy Cross (2-1 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens A) had leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 and appeared to be in a perfect position to pick up an impressive road victory after Michael Socci’s solo home run to center in the top of the seventh.
On the mound was Derek Lamacchia, who got a pair of easy outs to end the sixth inning. But Lamacchia, who started in right field, walked leadoff batter Andrew Stella, who advanced to second on a passed ball. After Tommy Cloonen flew out to left, Lamacchia also offered a free pass to Lou Perez and Holy Cross Coach Doug Manfredonia sent the senior back out to right field, where he started the game, and brought in John Massa.
But Massa gave up a single to right by power-hitting Alex Miden to load the bases, sending Robbie Rondon to the plate.
The junior took the second pitch he saw, an outside fastball, the other way, dunking it over the short porch in right for a two-run, ground-rule double to tie the score at five.
“I thought it was going to be a can of corn to right field, but the wind picked it up and it went over,” Rondon said.
With first base open, Brandon Ferguson was walked to load the bases. Massa struck out T.J. Fox, but lost the strike zone and walked Briffa to end the game.
“You figure one run is enough and then you add an insurance run,” Manfredonia said. “He just lost the plate. [Massa is] reliable with strikes and I said if they’re going to win this, they’re going to have to get hits. As it turns out, he walked a couple.”
Caught up in the emotion of the moment, Rondon nearly forgot to touch the bag at third base before joining teammates for a well-deserved celebration on the field.
“I was going crazy,” Rondon said.
While McClancy (2-0 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens A) won the game in the seventh, the Knights actually blew their chance to win the game long before Massa stepped to the hill, according to Manfredonia.
“We were up 2-0 and I don’t think we had a hit for five more innings,” he said. “We’re sitting on the lead, waiting for someone else to do it. That’s what happens. You lose the plate in the last inning and you don’t give yourself enough of a cushion for the bad times.”
McClancy starter Frank DiMaria, who tossed a two-hitter in a 4-0, league-opening win against Christ the King, was solid through 5 2/3 innings. The senior right-hander gave up one earned run on five hits, striking out seven with two walks.
DiMaria was victimized by a couple of defensive miscues, but McClancy, without starting shortstop Bobby Mongiori — possible mononucleosis — and third baseman Vinny Primozic — family illness — battled back for an impressive win.
“They were hungrier than we are,” Manfredonia said. “We’re talented, but we’re not hungry.”