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DeLucia, Bratichak lead Kellenberg to CHSAA championship

Kellenberg players celebrate after their 5-4 win over

Kellenberg players celebrate after their 5-4 win over St. Anthony's in Game 2 of the CHSAA finals at Hofstra on Sunday, May 31, 2016. The Firebirds swept the best-of-three series to take the league championship. Credit: James Escher

Jason DeLucia said he didn’t think he’d play competitive baseball again, let alone step up to the plate for Kellenberg with the potential winning run on second in the top of the eighth inning.

DeLucia, a senior, said he tore his ACL playing football and missed the entire football and baseball seasons his junior year. He returned at the start of the year and made up for lost time with an RBI single to rightfield for the go-ahead run, as Kellenberg beat St. Anthony’s, 5-4, in the second game of a double-header to win the CHSAA championship Sunday at Hofstra.

Top-seeded Kellenberg (17-5) sealed the win when Joseph Bratichak began a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. The Firebirds beat No. 2 St. Anthony’s (14-8), 4-0, in Game 1 behind Chris Cappas’ one-hitter and a three-run second inning with RBIs from Cappas and Andrew Russell and a run by Thomas Paulich.

“Words can’t describe how great this feeling is,” said DeLucia, who also brought in a runner on a sacrifice fly in the first inning of Game 2. “This is my opportunity and I got up there and capitalized when my team needed me the most.

“It was a great team effort. The first three years as a team we had negative records and this year we had one of the best seasons in Kellenberg history. We have a lot of chemistry together and we’re a family. The journey has been great.”

Kellenberg got off to an early lead on DeLucia’s RBI, but St. Anthony’s answered quickly when Matt Martino doubled to tie the score at 1 in the bottom of the first. Martino was strong on the mound, too, and didn’t allow a hit for the next three innings.

Rob Weissheir hit a two-RBI double to leftfield in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead for Kellenberg. The team’s defense impressed from there, notably when Cappas caught a fly to center with the bases loaded and threw it home in time for the tag that ended the inning.

Connor Levchuck tied the score at 3 with a two-RBI double in the sixth and Noah Fortuna singled to give St. Anthony’s a lead two batters later. Russell evened it up on a sac fly in the seventh.

“Four years of our lives, this is all we wanted,” Bratichak said. “We had the lead; I just had to get three outs.”

Added Kellenberg coach Chris Alfalla: “It was a grind, the whole year was a grind. A little small ball, a little luck here and there, timely hitting . . . we got the job done. Everybody has contributed on this team at one point or another. We’ve worked hard for this and we’re going to enjoy it.”

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