By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Nazareth knew it was coming, but it just couldn’t do anything about it.
The Nazareth Kingsmen faced Sacred Heart twice during the regular season and both times they got a good look at David Hurley’s curveball. It gave them fits in those two losses, but headed into the baseball championship game, they thought their familiarity with the pitch would help them.
Hurley used his curveball to strike out 11 batters as Sacred Heart beat Nazareth 3-0 to win the Catholic High School Athletic Association’s A division championship at St. John’s in Queens on Sunday.
“We knew about that curveball, we warned each other, but there just wasn’t anything we could do about it,” said freshman Shamariah McCullough. “We made no errors and played a strong defensive game, but we really struggled offensively. I thought we were ready for it.”
Nazareth was able to get a few runners on, two in the first, two more in the second and the Kingsmen even got a pair into scoring position in the fourth but every single time, Hurley was able to navigate out of trouble.
“It got frustrating,” McCullough admitted. “Going through the lineup, by the third inning everyone is hanging on that curve and we started to get frustrated on the bench. We tried to keep our emotions high, the fans helped out, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Kingsmen did get a final rally in the seventh inning when William Navarro and McCullough both reached, but Hurley, who tossed a complete game for the win, got Agustin Quiles to fly out to left to end the game.
A strong pitching performance by Navarro, who allowed three runs on five hits, three walks and seven strikeouts, was wasted due to the lack of run support.
This was an emotional loss for Nazareth, but one its coaches were proud of. It was the first year in the CHSAA for the Kingsmen and this was a team that was almost entirely freshman and sophomores with just two seniors and no juniors.
“Coming into the season we were not projected to go as far as we've gotten,” Navarro said. “We were projected to get kicked out in the first round of the playoffs, maybe. To make it this far was pretty amazing.”
Head coach Agustine Quiles confirmed that nobody really expected this team to do much this season even when they started winning games early on. He explained how it wasn’t until they went up to the Bronx and beat Monsignor Scanlan, last year’s CHSAA A division champion, that his team started to believe.
However, it seems that the Kingsmen were not quite ready this season. With such a young team, Nazareth will have at least two more chances with this core and now they have more experience and some motivation.
“Some people will say that you have to put it behind you, but I told them that they have to remember,” Quiles said. “I told them, 'When we come back in and start working and when you're tired during workouts, I want you to remember how this feels right now so that way we don't feel this way again.' I want them to use this as motivation.”