Soaring Over the Firebirds: Walk-off Grand Slam Propels the Flyers to Victory

By Sean Maleady ’17

Despite facing gloomy conditions, the Flyers took off from the tarmac ready to soar over the first-place Kellenberg Firebirds at Cantiague Park on Tuesday, May 10.  This upcoming series was of great importance, as it could set the tone for the rest of the Flyers’ season.  The potential playoff matchup lived up to the hype, with the two Marianist schools fighting for a playoff position and bragging rights.

For the Flyers, Julien Arcos ’16, who leads the league in wins, took the mound hoping to alleviate pressure for the faltering offense, which had struggled in prior games. Unfortunately, Arcos had an uncharacteristic first inning.  After warming up and hearing the umpire yell, “Play ball!” Arcos fired a belt high fastball over the heart of the plate. Well aware of Arcos’ prowess on the mound, the batter aggressively swung and sent a homerun over the right-field fence. The following batter would single and eventually score on a bloop double that landed on the foul line. The dreary day did not seem to be going the Flyers’ way, but they remained confident and fought on.

Seniors pose for a picture with walk-off hero Joe Suozzi ‘16, #4, after the big win.
Seniors pose for a picture with walk-off hero Joe Suozzi ‘16, #4, after the big win.

The Flyers’ offense continued its recent slump in the early innings, and the 2-0 deficit appeared insurmountable.  With added pressure to keep the score close, Julien Arcos worked with catcher Straton Podaras ’16 to fight through the game, one inning at a time. The Flyers surrendered two more runs in the third inning on an error, further dashing the Flyers’ hopes of victory.  Chaminade pitchers warmed up in the bullpen early in the game to aid Arcos, but they proved unnecessary.  Arcos fought like a warrior, throwing all 7 innings and keeping his team within striking distance.  He showed that he is a true ace who exceeds expectations and perseveres.

Besides a third-inning error, the Flyers’ defense was spotless.  The offense slowly but surely worked the pitch count of the Firebirds’ hurler by working quality at bats. The Flyers suffered some bad luck in the early innings, hitting into three double plays with one out and the bases loaded.  Through patience and determination, the offense finally came through in the 6th inning.  Joe Pizzingrillo ’16 and Cole Masterson ’16 drove in a run each and improved the Flyers’ prospects for the 7th inning.

It was now do or die for the Flyers as they came to bat in the bottom of the 7th, trailing by a score of 4-2. The top of the order was due up to salvage a disappointing game.  Podaras fought the Kellenberg ace, forcing him to surrender a leadoff walk.  At this point, the Kellenberg pitcher was removed from the game and replaced with the Firebirds’ closer.  Anthony Greco ’16 drew a walk from the closer.  Nick Sciortino ’16 followed up Greco’s free pass with one of his own.  The bench went bonkers, as they had just cheered the Kellenberg pitching staff into walking the bases loaded.  The Kellenberg closer, rattled by the pressure of the situation and the Flyers’ fans, was removed from the game.  

Joe Suozzi '16 steps up to the plate, determined to win the game for his team.
Joe Suozzi ’16 steps up to the plate, determined to win the game for his team.

Clean-up hitter Joe Suozzi ’16 stepped to the plate with a cool and composed look in his eyes.  He took practice swings, timing the new Kellenberg pitcher, and stepped into the box when he was ready.  Suozzi took the first pitch, which only traveled 40 feet before bouncing.  The new Kellenberg pitcher already seemed flustered and threw the next pitch.  The ball left his hand and headed straight for the middle of the plate where it collided with the barrel of Suozzi’s bat.  The ball sprung off the bat and soared high in the air over the left fielder’s head. It landed over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.  The dugout exploded with excitement, and Suozzi pumped his fist as he rounded the bases.  Suozzi threw his helmet off and pounced onto home plate where he was mobbed by his exuberant teammates. “As I was running around the bases I felt as though I was dreaming. I can’t even remember touching first base,” said Suozzi. “It really was a surreal moment that I will never forget.”

All four runners touched the plate, and the Flyers took game one of the series by a score of 6-4.  “I am very grateful to my teammates for putting me in that situation,” said Suozzi after his heroic effort.  The Flyers’ left fielder continued, “And I am happy that I was able to deliver for them.”

The Flyers would lose two closely contested games to finish up the three-game series. The team hopes to succeed in the playoffs this upcoming week and defend their CHSAA Varsity Baseball title.