Nick Ungania delivers in clutch for Chaminade in win
It was about all one could ask for on Opening Day in the always tough CHSAA.
Defending champion Chaminade was facing contender St. John the Baptist. It featured a pitching matchup of aces and returning Newsday all-Long Island second-teamers in Flyers lefty John Downing and Cougars righty Kyle Chase. And the only thing not to like about the white-knuckle contest was the 40-degree weather it was played in.
For six innings it was the pitching duel that was promised, but in the end Wednesday’s contest was decided by the clutch hitting of Chaminade’s Nick Ungania. The senior outfielder laced a bases-loaded double with one out in the top of the seventh inning to scored score a pair of runs and propel the Flyers to a 4-3 victory at the Cougars’ Buddy Corr Field.
St. John the Baptist had broken a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth when Chase took his foil, Downing, over the left field fence for a mammoth home run. Ungania had three doubles and all four RBIs for Chaminade (1-0, 1-0).
“Nick really came through for us – without him we’d have been nowhere,” Downing said.
“We started last season 3-3 and had to come on later to win the championship,” Ungania said. “I really didn’t want to start this season with a loss.”
Downing pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out nine to earn the win. He threw 109 pitches, 73 for strikes. When he hit the league-mandated pitch limit, JJ Gatti came on to get a game-ending strikeout for the save.
Chase pitched six innings and allowed two runs on two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. He was in line to get the win after his homer, but ended up with no decision when the Cougar bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
“The experience this team has from winning (the championship) last year will serve it well,” Chaminade coach Mike Pienkos said. “Seven of our starting nine are back from that team, so they play with a lot of confidence and expect to win.”
St. John the Baptist (3-1, 0-1) took a 2-0 lead in the first with the aid of a Downing throwing error on an Aeden Forde sacrifice after Christian Alicea’s leadoff single. RJ Azarieh had a run-scoring groundout and Jason Campo had a run-scoring single to right off the glove of diving second baseman Brady Steinert.
The final out Downing recorded in the inning began a run of 15 straight Cougars retired before Chase's homer. “I kind of got into a good rhythm,” Downing said. “Then I got too cute with a fastball to (Chase).”
The Flyers tied the game on a two-run double by Ungania in the fifth. Azarieh came on for Chase in the seventh but didn’t have his best stuff. Chaminade loaded the bases with none out on a pair of walks and an error. Forde came in to relieve and got a strikeout before Ungania’s two-run double.
“We were down after the home run, but we never feel we’re out,” Ungania said. “I’m glad I could help us get the win.”