In Chaminade’s high-wattage celebration on Monday, Logan Koester was the Flyer who didn’t burn quite as bright as the rest. It was with good reason. The senior ace was both physically and emotionally drained — the result of willing his team to the CHSAA championship.
St. Anthony’s kept pounding on the door and threatening to put a decisive run on the board through the late innings in Game 2 of the championship series. Koester turned them away again and again until the Flyers finally broke through in the top of the eighth as they eked out a 3-1 win at Hofstra’s University Field for a sweep of the gritty Friars.
Koester pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball, and though St. Anthony’s hit the CHSAA pitcher of the year as hard as anyone has this season, he stranded a total of six runners over the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
“He’s got to go down as one of the best I’ve ever had on the mound,” Chaminade’s 37th-year coach Mike Pienkos said. “He really got tested today and he made all the big pitches when his team needed him. He was tough with runners on base.”
Chaminade (17-4) is the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA champion for the 17th time and first since 2015. St. Anthony’s (11-14), which gelled late and won four elimination games to reach the series, has not won the crown since 2000.
“I had a lot of high-stress pitches today. I haven’t had that much in the regular season,” said Koester, who finished the year 7-0 with an astonishing 0.45 ERA. “Today felt like every pitch mattered. It took a lot of effort out of me. I knew I had to battle through everything and if I didn’t . . . I felt like it might all go downhill.
“Maybe this was putting too much on myself, but I felt like I was in the pitcher’s duel and that if I didn’t give everything that was inside, everything could go wrong.”
“It’s almost unfair for us to expect him to pitch like this all the time, but he keep turning in performances like this,” said Aidan Larkin, the CHSAA player of the year. “It felt pretty good for us with him going on the mound in such a big game.”
After Koester stranded a baserunner on third base to end the seventh, Jack Santini and Larkin both drew walks to start the eighth. Koester bunted back to St. Anthony’s pitcher Joe Okpych but his throw to first sailed high, allowing both runners to score.
Perhaps Chaminade got an omen of good things to come while in the field for the bottom of the sixth. The Friars had runners at the corners with one out when Tyler Podolsky hit a liner to Flyers second baseman Sawyer Duarte. He gloved the liner and tried to catch pinch runner Gregory Randall off third, but threw it over the head of third baseman Brendan O’Hara. As Randall bolted for home, the ball caromed back to O’Hara, who threw home to cut down Randall and end the inning.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” O’Hara said. “The ball hit a post in the fence and bounced right back to me.”
“At first, I thought, this is not good,” Koester said. “But the third baseman hustled, put a dart in the catcher’s mitt and the catcher made a great tag. I was fired up. I felt like we had all the momentum after that.”
Koester came out for the eighth and had a shot at a complete game, but allowed a two-out single to Cameron Dunn and reached the limit of his state-mandated pitch count. Reliever Pat Cullinan got a ground ball to shortstop Larkin, who stepped on second to end the game and start the celebration.
O’Hara had two hits and a run scored and Aidan Umhafer had an RBI for Chaminade. Steven Rizzo had an RBI for St. Anthony’s.
“I really wanted to be out there for this game, to not let this chance of ours to get away,” Koester said. “For all the work our team has put in, Chaminade deserved nothing short of the championship.”