Carey (20-6) vs. Victor (22-1)
Saturday: 10 a.m. at Sylvester Field at Union-Endicott High School
The winner advances to the final, Saturday at 4 p.m. and plays the winner of Shaker-Kingston.
Carey has won 13 straight games, and in the process, the fourth-seeded Seahawks swept Class AA favorites Calhoun (seeded first) and MacArthur (seeded second). To say this team is scorching hot is most likely an understatement. In Game 2 against Calhoun, Carey came back from an early four-run deficit by doing what they do best: playing strong, fundamentally sound small ball. Indeed, despite the fairly slim margin, Carey had a relatively easy go of it in the Long Island championship against Sachem North on Sunday. The Seahawks took a 3-0 lead in the first and never looked back to a capable, though at times nail-biting, performance by ace John Daddino. Carey ended up winning, 5-3, thanks to heavy production by the middle of the lineup - specifically Kyle DeMeo (3-for-3) and Steve Marino (two RBIs).
So what is it that makes Carey - the team that had never won a county championship - just so good this year? They're well-balanced. Indeed, if the Seahawks have a trump card it's that they'll need two wins to capture a state title, and unlike some teams, they have two aces to do it with. Iona-bound John Daddino, who struggled with a torn labrum last year, is finally healthy, and it shows. The hard-throwing right-hander is 4-0 in the postseason and is pitching to a 1.42 ERA (his ERA for the season is at a team-best 1.29). Right behind him is Jesse Montalto. Montalto, the team workhorse, has 63 1/3 innings under his belt this season with a 1.66 ERA. He considers himself a control pitcher, but he has been known to light up the radar gun. Neither pitcher is lights out, but you needn't look any further than the strikeout totals to see what makes them effective. Daddino has a jaw-dropping 102 Ks in 54 1/3 innings, while Montalto, who has no trouble going off-speed with two strikes, has 86.
One part of Carey's game that tends to get overlooked is not only its hitting, but its smart hitting. The team has a .376 average but does well advancing runners and getting them in from scoring position. The guy you want to keep an eye on is leadoff hitter Tom Rydzewski, who has 19 of the team's 25 stolen bases on the year and hasn't been caught once. Other guys to look at: shortstop Kyle DeMeo, who leads the team in average (.550) and on-base percentage (.624). His patience at the plate (15 walks) and speed make him an absolute pest out of the three hole.
But what of Victor?
Well, let's just say that the name is apropos. The Blue Devils lost only one game all year - a 9-8 loss in late April to a team you've never heard of (ok, ok, it was Herndon, from Myrtle Beach). And, based on Tuesday's 2-0, seventh-inning win in the southwest regional final against Clarence, they know a thing or two about clutch. Players to watch include junior pitcher Matt Portland and the guy with the two-RBI single in that game, senior Josh Ludwig.
Also, in case you're sick of reading my recaps, check out Carey coach Marc Hedquist's on the Seahawks baseball site. They are, in a word, awesome.