By Troy Mauriello
Monsignor McClancy ran into a buzzsaw at the worst possible time.
It came in the form of Iona Prep starter Samuel Bello, who led the Gaels to a 3-1 win in eight innings over McClancy in a CHSAA “AA” elimination game last Wednesday, ending the Crusaders season.
Bello struck out 11 in six innings of work and allowed just two hits and one unearned run. Overall, McClancy struck out 16 times and had only six runners reach base in eight innings.
“Their pitching was dynamite [and] pitching wins,” McClancy coach Nick Melito said. “They limited us on base. They limited the running game. They did a good job.”
Bello dominated the Crusaders on the mound, keeping them off balance and retiring the final 10 batters he faced. From there, reliever Robert DeBenedictis finished the job, striking out five of the eight batters he faced and earning the win.
“He was a little rusty first inning, but he showed you what he can do,” Iona shortstop Michael Gorman said of Bello. “He had 11 strikeouts today, he just pumps.”
McClancy rattled Bello early, scoring its only run just four batters into the game.
Mississippi State commit Quentin Holmes — who was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the MLB Draft Monday night — led off with a walk and advanced to second after Iona first baseman Joe Iengo dropped a pickoff attempt. Ryan Neuweiler drove in Holmes with a two-out single to give the Crusaders a one-run lead.
After that, scoring opportunities were scarce for McClancy. The Crusaders had a chance to extend their lead with two on and two out in the third, but the threat ended when catcher Kyle Schaffer popped out to short.
Bello set down the next nine Crusaders in order, striking out five and giving the Iona offense a chance to break through against McClancy starter Tom Hogan.
No. 8 hitter Kevin Bomba started the rally, lacing a one-out double down the line in the top of the fifth, bringing around Joseph Colaio-Coppola to tie the game.
Hogan did his best to keep McClancy in the game, throwing five innings of three-hit ball while striking out two and allowing just one run. Crusaders reliever Robert Berrios was able to hold off the Gaels in back-to-back innings, but things began to unravel in the top of the eighth.
Bomba started Iona’s rally with a leadoff walk, and a single from Domenico Bruzzese gave the Gaels two on with one out. Gorman followed with a two-run single, giving the Gaels a lead they would not relinquish.
“I was looking for a pitch to hit, something to even put in the air just to get a run in, and he gave me a fastball and I hit it,” Gorman said.
McClancy made things interesting in their half of the eighth, putting the winning run to the plate with two outs. But a Justin Matteo strikeout killed the rally as the Crusader’s season came to an end.
Despite the loss, Melito was proud of his team’s performance and ability to battle throughout the spring.
“Our team is scrappy,” he said. “Yeah we have some very good seniors, but there’s more to it. We’re a team, we win and lose as a team, and they’re great.”
Melito also spoke highly of his graduating seniors following the loss. Three of his stars, Holmes, and the Neuweiler twins — Ryan and Charlie — will move on and play ball at the next level, but their impact on the program will last far beyond this season.
“These kids, when they leave now, the three of them, any player that comes to McClancy is going to be saying, ‘is that the next Holmes? Is that the next Charlie? Is that the next Ryan?” Melito said.
Time will tell, but the future is bright for McClancy.