ENDICOTT — As a pitcher who has gained the reputation for wanting the ball in pressure spots, it was no surprise that Mamaroneck left-hander Kumar Nambiar came up big in the final start of his high school career.
The Yale-bound senior tossed a three-hitter in Saturday’s Class AA state semifinal at Union-Endicott High against the top-ranked team in the state, Section 11 champ Connetquot, leading the Tigers to 4-2 win.
They’ll play the Saratoga Springs (Section 2) vs. Orchard Park (Section 6) winner in the state championship game at 4 p.m. at Union-Endicott. Mamaroneck will be vying for its third state title in eight years.
“This is what we play for every year,” Nambiar said. “Big stage, all of the fans coming out today and we’re playing the No. 1 team in the state. You couldn’t ask for anything better. I just went out and pitched my ballgame. I trust (coach Mike Chiapparelli), I trust the guys behind me and we did it together.”
Nambiar only allowed one hit on 35 pitches through three innings, but a Mamaroneck error to leadoff the fourth opened the door for Connetquot. Brandon Morse hit an RBI double and Aaron Gagliano singled in another run to give the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead.
Connetquot had an opportunity to tack on more runs after Mamaroneck’s second error put runners on the corners with one out, but a botched squeeze bunt attempt resulted in an inning-ending double play.
“It was tough going down 2-0, especially to that team,” Nambiar said. “Hats off to them. They were great today. Going down to them was really tough for us, but to put two runs up after that in the next half inning was huge to clean the slate for us. From there, we took advantage of their mistakes.”
The Tigers (23-4) responded quickly against Connetquot ace Travis Bruinsma, who set a school-record with 13 wins this season.
Andy Karlan beat out an infield single to drive in a run in the top of the fifth and then a bases-loaded walk to Anthony Pecora tied it at 2-2.
Karlan and Peter Matt started the game-winning rally in the seventh with two singles, with both scoring on a groundball from Andy Gross. Connetquot (24-5) made two errors on that play and a total of six in the game.
“At this point, Chap said, ‘You’re going to win a state championship playing clean defense,’ ” Nambiar said. “We played, I guess you could say better defense than them today, so we pulled out the win.”
Nambiar struck out seven without issuing a walk on 93 pitches, 64 of which were thrown for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 25 batters that he faced and only allowed one earned run.
“The changeup and the curveball were both working today,” Nambiar said. “We knew they were a good fastball hitting team, so we had to set them up with the offspeed and then come in the fastball later in the game.”
Junior right-hander Bill Flatow is expected to get the start for Mamaroneck in the final.
“He’s pitched in huge games for us all year, so I trust him,” Nambiar said. “He’s had my back, I’ve had his, and I know he’s going to do a great job here.”
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano for live updates from the Class AA state title game
Photos by Jeff Miller/For The Journal News