After Kellenberg missed out on a CHSAA baseball three-peat last season, the focus this year was to get back in the winner’s circle. But things didn’t go as planned.
However, a second chance is in the offing with the upcoming postseason. And on Wednesday, Frankie Roder gave the Firebirds real reason for optimism.
The righthander stifled first-place Chaminade for 6 1/3 innings as he combined with Matt Leahy on a one-hitter in Kellenberg’s 2-0 win at Cantiague Park.
The Firebirds (7-8, 6-8) will pitch ace Jason Diaz on Friday with a chance to win the season series before the playoffs begin next week. The Flyers (12-3, 11-3), for the second time, will try to get win No. 600 for coach Mike Pienkos, now in his 38th year.
It was Roder’s best outing in two seasons of varsity baseball and suggests that Kellenberg might have enough pitching to fare well come playoff time.
“He commanded the zone and did it with all three pitches,” said Matt Kirk, who is serving as interim coach while Matt Alfalla is on jury duty. “He beat the best. If there was a game and a time for him to have an outing like this, this was it.”
Roder’s no-hit bid ended when Chaminade’s Brendan O’Hara singled through the middle to start the fifth after Luke Napolitano’s run-scoring single staked him to a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning. He got a strikeout and a groundout to strand Napolitano at second as Chaminade went 0-for-4 against him with runners in scoring position.
“Chaminade is probably the best offense in our league so it was time to dig deep,” said Roder, who walked two and fanned six.
Kellenberg, which led 1-0 entering the seventh, plated an insurance run on Andrew Cascio’s run-scoring single.
Roder was lifted with one out and one on in the bottom of the seventh. Leahy came in and issued a full-count walk and then struck out the last two batters for the save.
“Frankie pitched his heart out and it was on me to pick up where he left off and finish the job,” Leahy said. “I was glad I could.”
Kellenberg was behind the eight ball early after it was swept by defending CHSAA champ St. John the Baptist while losing five of its first seven and allowing more than seven runs per game. The picture is better today. The Firebirds have allowed three runs or less in five of their last seven games and are playing the regular-season champ tough in this series. Chaminade won the opener, 2-1, on Tuesday on a seventh-inning run.
“There’s no question that this win is a momentum-builder going forward,” Napolitano said.
“We looked at this series as a chance to show what we’re really made of,” Cascio said. “We had high hopes and we should have played better earlier. Now we need to finish strong.”
Most baseball coaching wins in Long Island history:
Wins Name School(s) Years
695 Doug Robins Division, Levittown Memorial 1974-1985, 1987-2004, 2006
667 Rich Smith Garden City 1973-2016
650 Joe Correa Calhoun 1972-2012
602 Bob Ambrosini Connetquot 1984-2013, 2015-2017
601 Sal Ciampi East Islip 1974-2004
599 Mike Pienkos Chaminade 1972-2019