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Pfeffer’s clutch single puts Stanners in finals

Andrew Pfeffer always dreamed of getting the game-winning hit in a playoff game.

For a while it seemed that’s all it would be during his time at Molloy, a dream. After getting cut from the junior varsity team as a freshman, Pfeffer did not even try out as a sophomore and practiced with the team last season, but was not on the roster.

But with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Stanners trailing St. Joseph by the Sea, 3-2, the senior knew that opportunity was about to become a reality after Molloy coach Jack Curran used up both of his pinch-hitting options.

The free-swinging leftfielder from Briarwood delivered, lacing a two-run single over the head of second baseman Mike Talamini to lift Molloy to a 4-3 win Tuesday at St. John’s University.

The Stanners advance to the CHSAA city championship game for a second straight year, where they face well-rested Iona Prep in a game scheduled for Wednesday at Mount St. Michael’s. The Gaels have not lost in the double-elimination tournament.

The rain date is Friday at 4 p.m., also at the Mount. If Molloy wins Wednesday, the final game will be played Friday at 4 p.m.

“Sometimes I swing at stupid pitches, wild pitches,” said Pfeffer, who bats ninth in the Molloy order. “I just really want to get a hit.”

That’s exactly what he did, driving home Nick Derba and pinch-hitter Jovan Santos to cap a three-run sixth inning and erase a 3-1 deficit.

“We hit for [Tom Catalanotto] and we hit for [Shaun Cheng], so there was no one else,” Curran said. “He’s a free swinger, which is his main problem because sometimes he swings at bad pitches.”

There was nothing wrong though with Matt Castellano’s first pitch, which Pfeffer put just over the outstretched glove of Talamini.

The rally started with Matt Rizzotti’s single to right, a Derba walk and Chris Kaible’s sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. The fourth inning started the same way for Molloy (25-5), which stranded both runners without scoring a run.

“It was exactly the same situation,” Rizzotti said. “That’s what scared me.”

But then Santos was hit on the top of the head to load the bases and Dean Andriotis, pinch hitting for Cheng, walked to bring the Stanners within, 3-2. The walks incensed the St. Joe’s coaching staff, as two of its coaches got thrown out for arguing balls and strikes.

“In the sixth inning, yeah he was squeezing me, but you can’t do anything about it now,” said Castellano, who fell to 8-1. “What hurts most is that it was in the sixth inning. We were shocked because we realized it could be our last game.”

Rizzotti, who improved to 5-0, made sure it was as the 6-foot-4 junior lefty gave up a leadoff walk to Talamini but then induced a 5-4-3 double play and a fly out to center to end the game.

“My fastball worked early, I was able to place it pretty good,” said Rizzotti, who threw a complete-game five-hitter. “But later on I started missing my spots, but my knuckleball was on.”

Two of the times Rizzotti missed, St. Joe’s (13-10) made him pay as Castellano tied the game at 1 in the fourth with a leadoff home run over the wall in left and Mike Consolmagno belted an RBI-triple over the head of Ryan Roberts in center field to put the Eagles ahead, 2-1 in the fifth.

Two batters later, Castellano gave St. Joe’s a two-run lead with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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