After dropping the opening game of last week’s best-of-three Nassau Class A baseball quarterfinal playoff series to Valley Stream North in extra innings, Clarke turned up the heat at the plate and on the mound to advance.
The third-seeded Rams outscored the Spartans by a combined 21-3 in taking the last two games, including a 9-2 home victory last Saturday afternoon in the rubber match. Senior Chris Caiazza tossed a complete-game three-hitter with four strikeouts and got run support from senior John Fogarty (two-run triple) and junior Mike Gismondi (two-run single) as Clarke advanced to meet No. 15 Island Trees in the semifinals.
“It doesn’t matter which two games you win,” Rams coach Tom Abruscato said. “After they beat us the first game, I reminded the kids of teams we had that came back to win a series after doing the same thing.
“North’s a good club,” he added. “We focused on winning at-bats and winning innings, one at a time.”
The offense gave Caiazza, who brings a fastball clocked in the mid-80s, a six-run cushion to work with. “Chris has always had a nice arm,” Abruscato said. “He had to build up his stamina, so we kept him to four of five innings most of the season. He’s been really good the last two or three outings.”
North coach Phil Sanfilippo said senior pitcher Glen Carey threw well enough to win. “We knew Glen would give us a solid start,” Sanfilippo said. “We had a few errors that led to some runs. Their kid pitched very well. We hit the ball hard at times, but right at the defense.”
The Spartans (15-7), seeded No. 14, beat Clarke (18-5) wice during the regular season and took Game 1 of the playoff series in come-from-behind fashion, 8-7, on May 15 on senior Anthony Martelli’s two-run homer in the top of the eighth. They trailed by four runs after one inning but scored three times in the third on RBI singles by seniors James Capoziello, Jeff Lantigua and Billy Patsos to get back in it. Junior Glen Tants got the win in relief.
Facing elimination, the Rams came out swinging in Game 2 last Friday and won in a rout, 12-1. Junior Jesse Russo got the fireworks started with a leadoff homer over the fence in right, sparking a three-run top of the first that proved enough for Seelinger. Fogarty homered twice and tripled, and drove in six runs.
“Matt’s a tough pitcher,” Abruscato said of Seelinger, who allowed just a homer to Martelli and struck out 10. “He keeps his composure.”
The Conference A-VI champs put the game out of reach with six runs in the sixth, highlighted by senior Jayson Garcia’s two-run single and Fogarty’s three-run jack.
“We had a very successful season, winning three playoff games,” said Sanfilippo, whose team eliminated Valley Stream South and North Shore. “It would’ve been nice to get one more and see what we could’ve done in the semis, but Clarke outplayed us the last two games.”