An age-old baseball adage asserts that a team’s momentum is only as good as their next day’s starting pitcher. Entering the winner’s bracket final of the CHSAA intersectional playoffs, St. Francis Prep was only too happy to abide by such a time-honored maxim because they had senior ace Dan Forman on the hill against borough rival Molloy. When he’s on the mound, the Terriers generally win, and form held true.
Forman was brilliant, improving to 3-0 this postseason by throwing a complete-game one-hitter at Molloy, striking out 11 and walking none, to push St. Francis Prep to the city final - their second in three years - Friday night versus Molloy, Regis, or Xaverian. The Manhattan-bound southpaw retired the final 13 Stanners he faced and allowed only center fielder Mike McCann, who reached on a second-inning single, to get on.
“I’ve seen him with better stuff, but he’s never pitched better in as important a game,” St. Francis coach Brother Robert Kent said. “They tried everything - they started taking pitches, tried to call time to break his rhythm. But he didn’t get shook up.”
“I felt like I was on top of the world,” Forman said.
So do the Terriers. After reaching the eight-team intersectional tournament by outlasting Staten Island power Monsignor Farrell in a best-of-three series, they’ve gotten better each game.
After rallying from six runs back to beat Holy Cross, they blasted the top seed, Moore Catholic, 11-3, last Friday night. Junior shortstop Lucas Romeo was the hero that day with four hits and three runs batted in. Outfielder Paul Karmas, a potential selection in Thursday’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, added three RBIs and catcher Robert Larussa homered. In the win over Molloy, the Terriers scratched out three second-inning runs on RBIs from Tommy Usichman, Dennis Nover, and Mike Canfarotta.
Two years ago, St. Francis Prep (21-6) took off on one of the more improbable playoff journeys in recent memory. After dropping the opening of the CHSAA intersectional double-elimination tournament, they won five straight to reach the title game. This year’s late-season run, however, may be even more surprising.
After dropping back-to-back games to Xaverian and Holy Cross late in the year, they ripped off four straight to finish the season, and have now won four of five postseason games, including all three in the intersectional round.
“It’s surprising with the competition, but we never peaked,” Kent said. “What happened was we came back in the Cross game. That got our momentum going. Cross was the only team we didn’t beat the whole year in the league.”
Karmas, then a sophomore, is the only regular who was on the last team to reach the final. He’s regaled his teammates with stories of that amazing run. “He said that he thought we were better than them,” Forman said, “and that we could do it just like them. It’s inspirational knowing they did it two years ago and we are here again.”
“I don’t think there’s a team in the league,” he later said, “that wants this city championship more than us.”