Chaminade coach Mike Pienkos walked slowly to the mound with the intention of removing starting pitcher Sal Fradella. There were runners at first and second with one out in the top of the 10th inning in a scoreless tie as Chaminade and St. Dominic battled in the first game of the best-of-three CHSAA finals.
Pienkos knew Fradella was tiring and wanted a fresh arm. As Pienkos approached the mound, he pointed to the bullpen to summon righthander Billy Lapham.
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Instantaneously, the ultracompetitive Fradella asked for one more batter -- and all four infielders concurred that that would be the right move.
"In 33 years, I can't recall ever going to the mound with the mind-set that I was removing a pitcher and getting talked out of it,'' Pienkos said with a laugh Sunday after his team's thrilling 1-0 victory at New York Tech. "I did point to the pen for a reliever but the four infielders convinced me to stay with Sal.''
"I wasn't coming out, no way,'' Fradella said. "I wanted to finish it. I said, 'Coach, I'm not leaving.' I felt great and could have kept going.''
So Pienkos turned around and left Fradella in the game. He was rewarded for his confidence with an inning-ending double play two pitches later.
Second baseman Cole Masterson fielded a hard grounder and flipped to shortstop Rob Aromiskis for the second out. Aromiskis, realizing he had no play at first, pump-faked and caught St. Dominic's Reiss Knehr rounding third. He ran at him, and when Knehr broke for home, Aromiskis fired to catcher Straton Podaras for the third out.
Building on the defensive gem, Chaminade's Beau O'Connell doubled on a 1-and-2 curveball from reliever Mike DeSanti to lead off the bottom of the inning. He moved to third on Podaras' sacrifice bunt and scored on Mike Varrone's suicide-squeeze bunt to win it.
Varrone's bunt was so perfect that O'Connell scored before the ball could be fielded and he beat it out for a hit.
The Flyers (18-3) moved within a win of the CHSAA championship and will meet St. Dominic (13-8) in Game 2 at 10 a.m. Monday at New York Tech. If the Bayhawks win, Game 3 will be played immediately thereafter.
Fradella allowed two hits, walked three and struck out three in a complete game to improve to 8-0 with four shutouts. He threw 124 pitches and retired 23 of 25 batters between the second and ninth innings.
Fradella's bulldog mentality and the rifle arm of Podaras negated the Bayhawks' offense. Podaras erased two runners attempting to steal second in addition to making the tag at the plate in the 10th.
"He's a brick wall and totally takes away the opposing teams' running game,'' Fradella said. "He has a laser for an arm and blocks everything."
"That was about as good a performance as you'll see from two starting pitchers,'' Pienkos said. "There was three hits total in nine innings.''
St. Dominic starter Knehr was just as effective as Fradella. The Fordham-bound righty gave up one hit and walked one in nine innings, striking out 11.
Knehr allowed a bloop single by Aromiskis to begin the game and issued a walk before retiring the final 22 batters he faced.
It was the second time this season that Knehr shut down the Flyers and came away with a no-decision. He went eight shutout innings in a 1-0 loss during the regular season.
"He's obviously real good,'' Pienkos said, "and we couldn't wait to get him out of there.''
Fortunately for the Flyers, Fradella wasn't leaving.