Steve Fondu said he heard all about Sal Taormina’s redemption as the Xaverian first baseman had the game-winning hit in a seeding round win against Fordham Prep Saturday in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
On Thursday night at Kaiser Stadium, it was time for the Furman-bound hurler’s personal redemption.
Fondu shook off a shaky start to toss a complete-game five-hitter, helping lead the Rams to a 9-3 win over top-seeded Xaverian in the CHSAA Class AA championship tournament at St. John’s University.
“We knew we had that first game and it was a tough loss, but we really wanted to come back and get revenge,” Fondu said. “I remember [Taormina] said he got redemption, but I guess we got our redemption now.”
No. 4 Fordham Prep reaches Sunday’s semifinal where it will meet archrival Iona Prep, which defeated St. Raymond 3-2 in nine innings Thursday at Fordham. The winner books its ticket into the title game next weekend.
“Who wouldn’t want that with a chance to go to the championship,” Fordham Prep star Andrew Velazquez said. “If we play exactly how we played today, we’ll be fine. I don’t see us losing at all.”
Xaverian (19-2), the defending Class AA champions, will face No. 7 Archbishop Molloy Friday at 2:30 p.m. back at St. John’s in an elimination game.
On Saturday, Fondu tossed six scoreless innings and had a 2-0 lead heading into the final inning. Fondu’s pitch count was over 100 on a hot and humid afternoon and Deane knew it wasn’t an elimination game.
So he called on Andrew Pucillo to close, but he gave up three runs, including a two-run single by Taormina, who struck out three previous times, to end it.
Fondu was hoping for another shot at Xaverian and he got just that Thursday night.
But it was a struggle early for Fondu, who said he was a little too excited to be facing the X-Men. He gave up three runs on three hits in the first two innings, but got into a groove in the middle innings and got even stronger later.
Fondu allowed just an infield single in the final four innings and retired the final eight he faced. He struck out seven and walked two.
“In the first and second inning, I was too amped up and my ball kept staying up and they hit me,” Fondu said. “I went into the dugout, talked to my coach and he said just to relax, bare down and I hit my spots, kept the ball low and I was able to complete the game.”
Fondu had plenty of offensive support this time as Fordham Prep (15-7) capitalized on some rare defensive miscues – Xaverian had four errors – to score nine unanswered runs.
“We unraveled and made mistakes we don’t normally make,” Xaverian coach Lou Piccola said. “Hopefully we can bounce back tomorrow and our kids realize the magnitude of what’s in front of them.”
Velazquez was the offensive catalyst. The five-tool senior shortstop bound for Virginia Tech said he’s changed his approach at the plate after just looking for the home run ball in the middle of the season. Against Xaverian he was 3-for-3 with a pair of walks, he had one RBI, four runs scored and three stolen bases.
“He’s unbelievable,” Fondu said. “In my mind, he’s the best player in the city, one of the best players in New York [State].”
The Rams followed suit, blasting Xaverian pitchers with 12 hits. Leading the hit parade was Jack Sexton, who had three RBIs, including a two-run single in the sixth. Zach Leone had two hits and two RBIs, Vinny Capone had a pair of hits, Kevin Flynn scored twice and Robbie Lynch had two hits.
“One through nine, everyone was on base at one time or another today,” Deane said. “Everyone came up with a big hit or scored a run, I think across the board.”
Added Velazquez: “I think we’re one of the best hitting teams in the city and I think we proved it today. It’s been there before, but we’re all coming together and getting hot at the right time.”
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