Chaminade righthander Andrew Heiderstadt was not credited with a save on Wednesday. He was not rewarded with a win either. But he might have deserved both. He certainly saved the Flyers’ bacon and was one of the biggest reasons they defeated Kellenberg in Game 1 of the CHSAA Championship Series.
Chaminade’s four-run lead had been cut to three in the fifth inning and the Firebirds had the bases loaded with two out. It was Kellenberg’s big moment when Heiderstadt was summoned into the game. The hard-throwing junior fooled Phil Schurr on a 1-and-2 slider for the inning ending strikeout and Chaminade was on its way to a 10-1 victory at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
"There’s lots of pressure in that moment obviously, but I was feeling really zoned in," Heiderstadt said. "I get called into situations like that because, I think, I am able to block the circumstances out."
"[Heiderstadt] is very calm and he's got confidence in everything he does," Chaminade coach Mike Pienkos said. "You need somebody like that — that can go into a pressure situation and isn’t fazed by anything."
Chaminade (13-4) has won 10 of 11 after a 3-3 start to the season and is one victory away in the best-of-3 series from capturing its 19th championship. Kellenberg (13-4) will try to push the series to a decisive third game on Thursday in Game 2 at 4:15 at Mitchel.
The Flyers have an abundance of ways they can beat an opponent and showed a bit of each of them in Game 1.
There is the starting pitching and the bullpen performers. Starter JJ Gatti went 4 2/3 innings and allowed one run on two hits for the win; Heiderstadt for four outs, three on strikeouts; and Christian Sikiric got a game-ending strikeout with a runner on third.
There is the defense which, as shortstop Nolan Nawrocki said, "is the foundation and we don’t make mistakes and give runs away." The Flyers made a pair of outstanding defensive plays in the field. First baseman Tyler Burke and Nawrocki executed a perfect 3-6-3 double play to end the Firebirds’ first inning and set the defensive tone. And Nawrocki prevented Kellenberg from tying the game at 1 in the third by charging a ground ball, making a barehanded play and a flawless throw to first for the inning-ending out.
"For a shortstop to make a barehand play next to the pitcher's mound and throw the kid out? You can't even teach that," Pienkos said. "That's just that athletic ability."
And then there is the Flyers’ team speed. Fleet-footed Nick Ungania started the Chaminade third with a triple to the gap in left centerfield. Tommy Lebrecht plated him with a sacrifice fly, the first of his two RBIs. "Because of the way we play defense, getting in front can be very important," Lebrecht said. "I just needed to get that run in."
After Nawrocki and Lebrecht had RBIs in the three-run fourth, Chaminade assembled a two-run sixth with Nawrocki and Ungania each beating out bunts for hits.
"We knew when we started slow that we were still one of the best teams in the league," Burke said. "We have the pitching and our defense doesn’t make mistakes. Those are the keys so, even at 3-3, we felt like we could be in it at the end."