Xaverian’s head coach Frank Del George made two predictions early in the year — that St. Joseph’s by-the-Sea would reach the Catholic High School Athletic Association’s finals and that his young and inexperienced team would take their licks.
Luckily for Xaverian, he was wrong about both.
The Xaverian Clippers beat the St. Joseph’s by-the-Sea Vikings 4-2 in nine innings in Staten Island on Wednesday to advance to the CHSAA final where they will take on Molloy High School.
“There are only two players on the field that played (everyday) last year, (Anthony Scotti) and (Nicholas Meola) out in right field,” Del George said. “The rest of the guys were all new. That’s why I told them in the beginning of the year that we are going to take our licks this year…
“Meanwhile, we’re in the final game,” Del George laughed. “You gotta be kidding me. It’s really a cinderella type team. There is no doubt about it.”
The biggest reason Xaverian has made it this far has been the pitching and that was true again on Wednesday as senior Anthony Sigismondi pitched a complete game and allowed just two unearned runs on no walks and three strikeouts.
“Last year a lot of us didn’t get a lot of playing time because we had 17 seniors and now this is our opportunity that we’re making the most of. “Sigismondi said. When asked if hearing the word rebuilding bothered him, he said, “It definitely does. Even though we’re young, we have a lot of talent, a lot of heart. I knew that this wasn’t a rebuilding year.”
Sigismondi gave up two runs early, one in the first after St. Joe’s leadoff hitter reached base after a blown call by the umpire, and another in the fifth on a sac fly. The early blown calls seemed to really bother Xaverian and Anthony Barbati admitted afterward that it wasn’t until a doubleplay in the seventh inning, while they were trailing 2-1, that the momentum really shifted and the Clippers got back into the game.
In the bottom of that same inning, St. Joe’s went to closer Steve Withers, but the move backfired as they tied the game when Joseph Vitacco reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to third on a Meola double and then scored when Anthony Barbati hit a sac fly to right field.
That run got them to extra innings where Sigismondi continued to put up zeros. Meanwhile, Withers lost control of his pitches in the ninth inning and hit a batter and walked two to load the bases. With nobody out, Barbati came to the plate again and once again hit a sac fly to right that scored Scotti to give Xaverian a 3-2 lead.
“The second at bat, I thought he was going to pitch me away so that’s what I was looking for and hit it in the same spot,” Barbati said. “I got up there looking for a pitch to hit to the opposite field just to get a run in. Just putting the ball into play was what I really wanted to do.”
St. Joe’s’ R.J. Mastroddi made a tremendous diving catch on Barbati’s sac fly to keep Xaverian from breaking open the game, but it did get another run when Christopher Nierva singled to left to drive in Meola.
It was a big win that was typical of the Clipper’s season — they got great pitching, strong defense and while they didn’t get a lot of offense, they got it when it counted. Next they will head to St. John’s on Monday where they will take on Molloy High School in the CHSAA final.
“We’ve worked all winter, all spring, all fall and this is what we’re playing for,” Sigismondi said. “Honestly, if we keep playing like this, where we’re getting pitching and defensive support from everybody, then we’ll be fine in the championship.”