By Trey Rodriguez
A line drive to centerfield proved to be much more than a simple second-inning out for Monsignor McClancy pitcher Frank Alberico.
Mississippi State-commit Quentin Holmes snagged the hardest hit and most threating ball of the afternoon by All Hallows, and the play gave Alberico the extra confidence he needed to be flawless.
The senior tossed a perfect game—striking out 13 batters on just 84 pitches, and garnering plenty of help from his teammates defensively in a 6-0 CHSAA baseball win over visiting All Hallows April 30.
“It makes it a whole lot easier just hearing their voices behind me,” Alberico said of his teammates. “I know they have my back. Last year I threw in a couple of playoff games and the intense situations made me a better player this year. I guess I kind of embraced the pressure and used it to my advantage.”
It was a scoreless battle at first, but Alberico would go on to strike out the side in the third inning. The Crusaders would then go on to score their six runs over the next two innings, giving Alberico breathing room. The big hit of the game was a two-run homer by junior Ryan Neiweiler. Alberico helped himself out as well with a single and a RBI for McClancy, which sits in second place in the Brooklyn/Queens division.
“Usually when he has the issues it’s in the first inning for some reason,” McClancy coach Nick Melito said. “But he didn’t have that issue. He struck out the first two and had a comebacker back to the pitcher.”
Alberico settled in quickly, largely in part to his curveball. Getting his curveball over for strikes has been something that he’s struggled with in prior outings, but he was able to do it well and early in the count.
“I was keeping the hitters off balance and located my pitches,” Alberico said. “I got ahead in a lot of the counts and that’s what helped me throughout the game because I was always in control of the batters. They didn’t know what was coming.”
As the game went on and the pressure amassed, Alberico remained calm and collected, something he attributes to his experience in the playoffs last season.
“Well, I knew going into the fifth inning that nobody had reached [base],” Melito said. “Starting the fifth inning, probably three quarters of the team knew what was going on. Then after the sixth inning, you really start feeling the pressure. I don’t know if he was feeling the pressure, but I was.”
As the seventh inning came around, Melito informed his outfielders to play shallow. The Crusaders didn’t want any sort of balls dropping for a base hit in front of them, forcing All Hallows to have to hit it over their heads. But Alberico would strike out the leadoff batter, get a ground ball to second base and strikeout All Hallows’ number-three hitter for a perfect ending to a perfect game.
“I was thrilled,” Melito said. “I think I’ve been playing organized baseball since I was seven, and I’ve never seen it. I’ve never been part of one. It was just some feeling. It’s history.”