What a difference a day can make. Albertus Magnus came into the weekend with a 5-9 record and had disappointingly dropped a handful of close games this season, a year after capturing the Section 1 Class B title.
The Falcons were set to play Nyack in their Dave Siegrist Memorial Tournament on Friday evening but heavy fog postponed the game until early Saturday morning. It was a long day for the Falcons but it turned out to be a great one for Magnus. The Falcons beat Nyack 8-6 in a 10 inning affair, hung on for a 1-0 win over Sleepy Hollow to take the tournament title and officially clinched a spot in the playoffs.
“We’ve been going back and forth and struggling a bit lately. This was really huge for us,” Magnus coach Dan Freeman said. “It’s really important going into sections that we show ourselves that we can win these close games. We’ve been on the losing side so many times and the thing I’m most proud of is the fight they showed today. This is probably the best day for our program this year.”
Albertus ace James Riley went seven innings a struck out eight batters against Nyack but it wasn’t enough. The teams were tied 4-4 before Jordan Rivera came through in the tenth inning with a two-run double and Joe Ottaviano followed him up with a two-RBI. Nyack battled back and chipped into the lead but the Falcons held on.
“Nyack is a great team and that was one of our biggest wins all year,” Freeman said. “I told them on Friday that they needed to show me some fight and face adversity. They did that 100 times over today.”
The Falcons had a few hours off before taking on Sleepy Hollow in the title game but showed no ill-effect from the early start, ten innings and long wait. Mike Dunne got the start for Albertus and mowed through the Horsemen’s lineup all afternoon.
“Dunne was unbelievable today,” Freeman said. “The reason he was so successful was because of first-pitch strikes. He pounded the zone all day and rarely fell behind. When he did he attacked the zone and got right back in it. It just shows you that if you throw strikes, you can be very effective.”
Dunne finished with five strikeouts in a complete game shutout. However, it was anything but easy. Fili Veras, Sleepy Hollow’s starter, didn’t get the memo that this was the Falcons’ day. Veras struck out three and only allowed four hits over six innings pitched.
Both Dunne and Veras worked through the first three innings at a quick pace and seemed to be in a rhythm. In fact, both starters were so effective and working at such a smooth pace that the entire game only took 80 minutes to play.
Rivera led off the fourth with a single for the Falcons. Stephen Greeley took Rivera’s spot at first after a fielder's choice and the breakthrough finally came. Ottaviano ripped a two-out gapper into the left-center to score Greeley.
“I was happy with the at bat and I ripped it good but I had a little mental error,” said Ottaviano, who was caught in a run-down to end the inning. “I came around second and didn’t look at coach. Those are some of the little things we can always improve on. It was a solid rope and it got the run in, which was huge because we didn’t score any other runs.”
Jordan Dorn drew a walk, one of two free passes issued by Dunne, to lead off the seventh inning and went to second a wild pitch. Sleepy Hollow attempted a sac-bunt but the pitch made it through to Greeley who snap-fired a laser to second base to pick-off the runner. The play killed the momentum for the Horsemen and put the game on ice.
“Riley and Dunne both very good games today and the whole team played very well,” Ottaviano said. “Winning this tournament definitely improves our confidence. Losing can become a regular when things aren’t going well. When you get two wins like this and bring home the hardware it’s a good feeling.”
Albertus will be advancing to the Class B playoffs next weekend Sleepy Hollow has already punched their ticket to the Class A tournament. Keep an eye on Kevin Devaney Jr.’s Bracketology as things change on a daily basis and be sure to take a look at the projected playoff brackets for Class AA-C.