Paul Cooney always knew he’d catch the ball, even if the spectators at Farmingdale State College were waiting anxiously to see if it would drop in for a hit.
It was the bottom of the sixth in Tuesday’s CHSAA baseball semifinal between top-seeded Kellenberg and No. 4 St. Dominic, and the visiting Firebirds were up by a run.
The Bayhawks had just plated two on a single to rightfield by Kevin Duffy. With runners on first and second and two outs, Greg Tan lined an inside pitch from Chris Cappas to shallow right.
Cooney darted in, left his feet and made the game-saving catch in the Firebirds’ 5-3 win, sending them to the CHSAA finals.
“I saw it all the way,” he said. “I knew I was making that catch.”
Cappas was able to keep the Bayhawks off balance during most of his complete game win. His control was suspect — he walked five and hit two batters — but the pitcher struck out eight and held St. Dominic to three hits.
“My accuracy was a little off at first, but I had a good defense behind me, and I just let them put it in play,” he said. “I thought I had a lot of bite on my curve today, and I got them fishing for it.”
Kellenberg managed just four hits, but scored five as the Bayhawks’ miscues often put runners in scoring position. Coach Chris Alfalla is confident his bats will wake up.
“There’s some technique with some guys that we need to tweak and make some adjustments, but these guys have a ton of talent,” he said. “We’ll be all right with the bats.”
Cooney’s sacrifice bunt in the top of the second set up a sacrifice fly by Thomas Paulich that gave Kellenberg (17-5) a 1-0 advantage.
The Firebirds scored again in the fourth when Jack Delaney walked with the bases loaded. St. Dominic answered in the bottom half when Justin Cancel was hit by a pitch and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Connor Sullivan.
With Kellenberg leading 2-1 in the top of the fifth, Cappas singled to left and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jason Delucia singled up the middle one batter later, scoring Cappas and giving Kellenberg a 3-1 lead.
The Firebirds scored their fourth run in a sixth inning that saw St. Dominic (16-9) make three of their six errors. Kellenberg scored another in the seventh for the final margin.
The Firebirds will play in the CHSAA finals agajnst St. Anthony’s beginning Sunday at Hofstra.
St. Anthony’s advances to CHSAA final
Third-seeded St. Anthony’s (14-6) bested second-seeded St. John the Baptist (12-8) at Farmingdale State College Tuesday night, advancing to the CHSAA finals on Sunday at Hofstra against Kellenberg with a 7-5 win.
St. Anthony’s scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-0 lead thanks to RBIs from Connor Levchcuk (two), Vincent Barretta and Cameron Tomaiko.
St. John’s answered with five runs in the top of the sixth. The scoring started when Michael DeStefano sent Matt Martino’s offering deep over the rightfield fence for a two-run homer.
Back-to-back doubles in the inning by Nicholas LaSala and Kevin Dolan led to three more runs.
The Cougars threatened in the top of the seventh, but Patrick Kennedy shut the door and earned the save.