Monsignor McClancy approached its CHSAA Class AA Brooklyn/Queens division matchup against Archbishop Molloy with a sense of urgency.
Yet the Crusaders had to battle something even stranger than the fall-like temperatures. A potential lead had been previously wiped away an umpires ruling in the bottom of the fifth inning and McClancy could have seen the emotional pendulum swung back in favor of the visitors.
Kyle Schaeffer didn’t take much time to give a response. The sophomore catcher hit the first pitch to earn a go-ahead RBI double and pitcher Charlie Neuweiler completed a stellar pitching performance in McClancy’s 2-1 win over Molloy on a windy and cool Sunday afternoon on Sunday in East Elmhurst
Mississippi State outfielder Quentin Holmes went 3-for-3 with an RBI and the hard throwing right-hander Neuweiler scattered three hits along with striking out nine batters for McClancy, who rank No. 8 in New York City by MSG Varsity.
“Coach Melito told us before the game today basically starts the playoffs. Start playing like it. If we play soft, we’re not going to win. We got to play hard,” Neuweiler said. “Today we grinded it out with them and luckily we came out with a win.”
McClancy improved to an 11-6 record and can improve their postseason positioning if they can defeat Christ the King at home on Tuesday in the regular season finale. A tiebreaking scenario would clinch second place in the division for McClancy over Molloy (10-6) and place them in the Intersectional eight-team championship tournament qualifying round starting next Saturday.
Molloy pitcher Billy Hatzinikolaou made an early one-run lead stand up until the bottom of the fifth inning when outfielder John Lluvera reached on a one out single to centerfield and walk put Ronald Clinton on first base.
The 16-year old Holmes has arguably the fastest legs in the city and showed it in his previous at-bat in stretching out a fly ball that dropped into medium right field all the way into a triple.
Holmes took a Hatzinkolaou pitch deep into the left centerfield gap and went into extra gear to crossed home plate thinking he had concluded a inside-the-park three run homer. But the junior was declared out for running past Clinton on the base paths and the umpires only counted Lluvera’s run to count on the scoreboard.
Holmes said he was pleased that Schaeffer picked the team up by following up with a line drive deep to left-center for a run-scoring double to plate Clinton from first base and make it 2-1.
“I think people forget Schaeffer is just a sophomore and he has tremendous pressure on him,” Melito said. “He’s got to catch a Division I pitcher and has a hellacious breaking ball. For him to come through will give him a lot of confidence.”
McClancy may feel they are ready to make a deep playoff run with some their key players looking to make an impact. Holmes felt it was one of his best hitting days at the plate all season and a hot bat would make him more dangerous at the top of the order.
Neuweiler battled in the top of the seventh inning after allowing Liam Cohen to reach on a hit by pitch and went to second base on a wild pitch. The LIU-Brooklyn ace struck out the next two batters and got Ruben Jimenez to fly out to first base to end the threat.
Junior shortstop Ryan Neuweiler could resume pitching duties after missing three weeks due to a strained rotator cuff and Frank Alberrico has been impressive on the mound and has picked up CHSAA Player of the Week honors.
It was also impressive according to Melito that the Crusaders bounced back from two previous losses to an improved Holy Cross team. Even though the league playoffs officially start next weekend, McClancy believes the postseason has already begun.
“Every day in this league is like your playing for your life. Holy Cross is good. They are a good team. We had 5 games in 6 days,” Melito said. “Now we have our own fate in our hands. If we win Tuesday, we finish second and then we would know how big that is.”