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Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 by LOHUD.COM

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Stepinac edges Iona Prep in ninth
By Josh Thomson
The Journal News • April 19, 2008

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NEW ROCHELLE - The Stepinac bats were so cold yesterday, they failed to hit the ball out of the infield until the sixth inning. And even when they did, it took a fielder's choice and back-to-back errors for the Crusaders to score their runs.

Needless to say, their afternoon at rival Iona Prep was a grind. A team with less poise might have been less willing to keep focus and thus would have lost out of sheer frustration. But Stepinac knew what it faced in Iona Prep's Alex Adami.

The Crusaders scratched out a run against the Gaels' ace in the sixth, then won the pivotal CHSAA Bronx-Westchester division game 2-1 when sophomore Steven Martinez scored with two outs in the ninth.

Martinez, who'd been hit by a pitch with two out, moved to third on an error, then scored when an in-between hop off the bat of Rene Gordis got past Iona Prep third baseman Eric Helmrich and trickled into left field.

"You have to take advantage any way possible," said Stepinac shortstop Eric Capowski, whose sixth-inning fielder's choice off Adami scored Greg Caruso with the tying run. "Any way you can get a run, you'll take it. Today we didn't hit a home run, but we did what we had to do to win."

The Crusaders (9-1) fell behind 1-0 in the first on an RBI single by Adami, but the inning suggested it would be a frustrating afternoon for the Gaels' offense. They stranded the bases loaded, then went on to leave 14 runners on base.

Stepinac failed to muster runners in the first two innings but began to threaten Adami as the game wore on. Remarkably, Iona Prep (8-2) ended the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings on double plays, including a 1-2-3 double play turned by Adami and catcher Tyler Donovan to end the fourth, allowing the pitcher to escape a bases-loaded jam.

Stepinac's Greg Caruso led off the sixth with a double over the head of center fielder Adam Hernandez. Caruso moved to third on a single by Anthony Muccio and scored on Capowski's grounder to second.

Adami, who also had three singles, threw a scoreless seventh and left having allowed just five hits and one walk over 88 pitches.

"When he pitches like that, we have to win the game," Gaels coach Fred Gallo said.

"I think he's the best pitcher in the league, so you just get a little scrappy, move guys over and get what you can," Stepinac coach Pat Duffy said. "We were able to peck away at a real good pitcher."

The Gaels had runners at first and second in the seventh and eighth innings but failed to score. They also loaded the bases in the fifth with one out, but left-hander Mike Scarnati escaped the jam. He pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, then gave way to Ed Byrne, who pitched the last 1 1/3 to earn the victory.

"Our pitchers made big pitches," Capowski said. "They got the popups and strikeouts, and that's why we won the game."

Iona Prep reliever Pete Ladis was the tough-luck losing pitcher. He didn't allow a hit, but Stepinac scored Martinez in the ninth anyway.

Even though the winning run didn't come against Adami, the Crusaders felt fortunate to win a game he started.

"We were about 40/60 to win coming in here and we stole one, so we're real happy about that," Duffy said.

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