The stakes for today’s matchup between New Rochelle and Mamaroneck were probably about as high as they can get in a regular season game. The Huguenots hadn’t beaten the Tigers since 2006, while Mamaroneck was coming off of its first two league losses since 2010.
To say that each team wanted to win badly would an understatement.
“I told (coach Pete Annunziata) from the beginning of the season that I wanted this game,” New Rochelle starter John Valente said. “Coming out to start the game, my adrenaline was up there.”
Valente knows the pain of losing to Mamaroneck all too well. As a three-year starter for New Ro, he came into today’s game having lost every game that he’s played against the Tigers. That all changed on Tuesday, with the Huguenots coming away with a 5-4 victory to keep pace with White Plains in League II-B.
“It’s incredible,” the senior right-hander said. “There’s no better feeling that describes this. Two teams fought hard, and there’s nothing better than that.”
• The magnitude of this game was clear based on the way that each coach managed it. Despite Mamaroneck ace Will Hofmann being available to start—he hadn’t pitched since last Wednesday—coach Mike Chiapparelli opted to save him for the second game against New Ro at home on Thursday. I’ve written about the Tigers’ struggles to solidify the No. 2 role behind Hofmann, and despite Chap declaring LHP Kumar Nambier as his second starter after Friday’s loss to White Plains, he chose to start RHP Brandon Fitzgerald . His reasoning was that he thought this was the only way to be able to use Hofmann in both games (Nambier was unavailable to start today after pitching on Friday). “I was hoping that we were going to pitch really well for five innings and bring (Hofmann) in for the final two, then have him pitch on Thursday,” he said. “I had him stretching in the sixth inning. If I pitched him today, win or lose, how am I going to win on Thursday?”
• I asked Chiapparelli if he had considered starting Hofmann today so that Nambier would be available on full rest for Thursday. “I could have used him on Thursday,” he said of Nambier. “I could have done that, but I need three (starters) for the playoffs… I’ve got four (league) games to find a third pitcher for the playoffs. I know Kumar can start for me.”
• The Huguenots knew that Hofmann had enough rest to start (Valente said they were “expecting” and “hoping” to face him), but Annunziata was clearly only focused on what they could control. Selfishly, I was hoping to see the matchup of aces, but I was genuinely surprised that Chiapparelli made the decision that he did (I even told him that before the game). “I’m not sure if was gamesmanship or if he was playing for a split, but we’re playing to win every game,” Annunziata said. “And we have to win every league game if we’re going to stay in the hunt for that league championship.”
• Chap’s decision backfired, with Fitzgerald struggling with command from the get-go. Two walks and a hit batsman loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, and then Jared Wiesel dug out a breaking ball for a two-out single to give the Huguenots a 2-1 lead. “He threw me two curveballs in a row that I didn’t really get a good swing on, so I finally sat back and hit it,” Wiesel said.
• The biggest play of the game may have come in the next at-bat. Nick Teto hit a pop up to shallow left field that could have ended the inning, but a miscommunication allowed the ball to drop (pictured to the right), scoring two more runs. Anthony Mirabile added an RBI single to right, chasing Fitzgerald from the game, and New Ro quickly took a 5-1 lead. “It was huge,” Annunziata said. “Obviously, the first inning was our inning, and in a game like that – and a lot of times in high school baseball – if you can get to that pitcher early before he settles down, you put up a couple of runs and you hold on for dear life, which is what we just did.”
• While Fitzgerald allowed five runs (only two earned), his replacement shut it down from there. RHP Tommy Muratore pitched the final 5 1/3 innings and did not allow a single hit. His final line was: 5.1 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 5 K, 63 pitches (39 strikes, 24 balls). “I think I found my No. 2,” Chiapparelli said. “He pitched a no-hitter with one walk. He was going to start until yesterday, but we decided that Fitzgerald pitched well (in relief on Friday) and we would give him one more shot. It was stupid. I should have went with my gut.”
• Valente didn’t get off to a great start on the mound, either. He allowed a run in the top of the first thanks in large part to a walk and two hit batsmen (Andy Karlan’s HBP drove in the run with the bases loaded), and labored through 29 pitches. “Coming out to start the game, my adrenaline was up there, and that’s hard to control,” Valente said. “But once coach A had a nice talk with me, I calmed down and I was hitting spots.”
• Valente (pictured to the left) surrended a second run in the third on an RBI single from Karlan, but for the most part, he did settle in. He showed the ability to reach back for strikeouts when he needed to, but he also seem to stop overthrowing and execute better later in the game. “This has been a trend for him – just too many pitches early in a game,” Annunziata said. “Once he settles down, he usually is much, much better later in the game, and he was much, much better later in the game. Every time I went to him and said, ‘How are you feeling?’ He said, ‘I feel great. I want the ball. I’m staying in the game.’ Basically, that’s what it came down to.”
• Knowing how badly seniors such as Valente wanted this one, I knew he was probably going to push to go deep into the game. He was at 98 pitches after the fifth, then came back out for the sixth and had his quickest inning. After only throwing 10 in the sixth for a total of 108, Valente took the mound again in the seventh. After hitting the first two batters of the inning, prompting a mound visit from Annunziata, I figured that had to be it, but Valente remained in the game. “ ‘Just settle down,’ ” Valente said of his coach’s message. “He was mostly talking to the fielders about calming down cause now we have the force. I calmed down, I said I would get us out of that inning, and that’s what I did.”
• Valente got the next two outs with a ground ball and a strikeout, but an error in which no one was covering second on a steal attempt allowed Ryan Orgielievicz to score and cut the deficit to 5-3. Matt Mohr walked and JC Ruggerio singled, making it 5-4, and thoughts of heartbreaking losses of year’s past had to start creeping into the Huguenots’ minds. “I was nervous,” Wiesel said. “I was screaming to my outfielders, “No doubles, no doubles, no doubles!” We had to block the ball and get the ball in.”
• Finally, on his 131st pitch, Valente induced a pop up to end the game. “I’m just trying not to think about anything,” he said when I asked about his nerves in that situation. “I’m trying to block everyone out, and that’s what I did.”
• Valente’s final line was: 7 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 4 HBP, 7 K, 131 pitches (75 strikes, 56 balls). Obviously, the pitch count seems excessive, but the New Ro coaching staff sounded comfortable with it. Apparently, Valente routinely goes over 100 and insisted that he felt good after each inning. (Small tease: I’ll have more on how pitcher’s are handled at this level in a multi-faceted feature that’s running in about a week in half. I’ve put a lot of research into this story and think it’s going to be very educational.) “I’m not biting my nails about his pitch count elevating, because as long as he still has good stuff and he’s throwing strikes and he’s getting people out, the pitch count isn’t really a huge issue,” Annunziata said. “The pitch count would be more of a factor if it looked like he was starting to lose it. That would be an indication. I’m biting my nails because I know that they’re going to keep fighting and scratching to get back into the game.”
• I can honestly say that this probably wasn’t the Huguenots’ best game of the year (they managed only two hits), but whereas in year’s past they tended to find ways to lose these games, they found a way to win this one. “Anthony (Mirabile) made plays at shortstop, Ari (Schanzer) made a huge play at first base, our outfield played really solid – we just played a pretty solid game, and that’s what we’re trying to go towards now in the second half of the year,” Annunziata said. “We’re going to try to be more solid and fundamentally sound, and that’s how we played today.”
• While this loss makes it three straight for Mamaroneck, the Tigers showed more life in this one than they did against White Plains on Friday. Chap spoke to me about heart that day, and he felt that he saw more of it with their seventh-inning rally today. “I was pleased with them fighting back,” he said. “I said, ‘Guys, I appreciate that.’ ”
• I’ll give the final word to Annunziata, who picked up his first career win over Mamaroneck (he took over as varsity coach at New Ro in 2009). He downplayed the significance of this win from a personal standpoint, but he knows this was crucial for his team’s league title hopes. With the Huguenots having split with White Plains—who swept Mamo last week—they needed this win to keep pace. “The honest answer to that is that it bothered me a lot more to lose than gave me satisfaction to win. It feels good to win for the team – I like to think of myself as a team guy – so it does feel good to win as a team, because it keeps us in the hunt for a league championship. But as far as beating them, it feels OK. It’s not like I feel like going around and jumping for joy. It felt just as good to beat Fox Lane the other day, it felt just as good to beat White Plains when we beat them. We just have to keep putting W’s up, and I want to win a league championship with these guys.”
• To see the play-by-play action and full box score, click here to see how I scored the game on iScore.
Here are the rest of the scores that we’ve received so far tonight:
East Ramapo 6, Clarkstown South 4: At Spring Valley High School, Jeffrey Parra had a home run, a double, and three RBI in East Ramapo’s first league win in seven years. Sophomore Vincent Lea earned his first varsity win. Joshua Williams had a solo home run. Karl Stewart had two doubles and an RBI. John Kukura had a solo home run and teammate Keith Stampfi had two RBI for the Vikings.
Pearl River 12, Scarsdale 2: At Pearl River, Rich Masley went 4 for 4 with a triple and three RBI. Winning pitcher John Doherty had an RBI. Kevin Considine had a double and two RBI. Dan Campbell had two RBI. Ashton Carr and Matt Augarten each had one RBI for the Raiders.
Eastchester 8, Pelham 4: At Pelham, Kyle Crimmons struck out nine in recording the complete-game victory. Greg Satriale drove in three runs and John Marcin two runs for the Eagles. Michael Murray and Robert Nanna each drove in a run for the Pelicans.
Saunders 17, Gorton 3: At Gorton, Jovan Claudio had one double and five RBI. Jonathan Aquino had two doubles and three RBI. Anthony Boreck and Kristian Prenga each had three RBI. Jake Diaz had three doubles and three runs.
North Rockland 1, Clarkstown North 0: At North Rockland, Kevin Hylas picked up the complete-game win, scattering three hits while striking out eight. Brandon Respress drove in the lone run. Robert Donnelly gave up only two hits, but was tagged with the hard-luck loss.
White Plains 10, Mount Vernon 7: At White Plains, Sean Johnson had three RBI. Cameron Crabbe had a triple and an RBI. Mike Lotito and Kyle Adams each had a double and an RBI. Larry Johnson had a double and two RBI for Mount Vernon.
Kennedy 10, Iona Prep 0: At Iona Prep, Joe Drpich had two home runs and five RBI. Winning pitcher Brian Kelly gave up two hits. Jason Agresti had two doubles and two RBI. Matt Kern had two RBI.
Bronxville 6, Yonkers 5: At Bronxville, Niko Doukas had a double and an RBI. Teammate Tyler Schultz had two RBI.
Keio 2, Horace Greeley 1, 8: At Horace Greeley, Takumi Yokoyama’s eighth-inning single drove home Yuya Morita with what proved to be the winning run for the Unicorns. Yokoyama picked up the win in relief, tossing two scoreless innings. Justin Ellick had an RBI for the Quakers.
Tappan Zee 11, Nanuet 3: At Tappan Zee, Matt Scherf went 3 for 4 with four RBI and one run. Jeremy Dobbs went 2 for 3 with two RBI and two runs. Nick O’Connor, Chris Simonson and Matt Flannery each had one RBI for the Golden Knights.
Stepinac 16, Hayes 6: At Hayes, Frankie Giuliano went 4 for 4 and James Decker threw five scoreless innings in picking up the win for the Crusaders.
Solomon Schechter 11, Palisade Prep 10: At Solomon Schechter, Ben Burton went 3 for 4 with two RBI and two runs. Sam Abecassis and Bradley Goldman each went 2 for 3 with two RBI. Zach Warren went 3 for 4 with two runs for the Phoenix.
Arlington 7, John Jay-EF 5
Briarcliff 5, Pleasantville 3
Ardsley 7, Irvington 5
Photos by Matthew Brown/The Journal News