When the moment came, Poly Prep’s ace was ready.
Blue Devils senior Nick Storz hadn’t started a game in nearly two months, but he returned to the mound on May 24 for the biggest game of his high-school career. He tossed six innings of nearly-flawless baseball to lead his team to a 6–3 victory over Horace Mann in the New York State Association of Independent Schools final. The title was second straight title, and its sixth in the last seven years.
“I wasn’t nervous,” said Storz, who will attend Louisiana State University next year. “I had faith in my team that they were going to have [my back] if I needed it and I had confidence in my own game. I wanted to go out there and win it for the team.”
Storz served as the team’s designated hitter as he worked to regain strength in his pitching arm, but always knew he would get the call to start when Poly made it back to the championship game. Against Horace Mann, he threw six scoreless innings, giving up just one hit, and at one point striking out eight of nine consecutive batters.
“He knew the plan was to get back for now and, to his credit, he stuck to the plan, put himself in a position where the ball was going to be in his hands,” Poly coach Matt Roventini said. “And the minute we knew Nick was back, we were really confident about this opportunity today.”
Of course, Storz didn’t do it all by himself; he got some run support from his team as the Blue Devils batters struck early against Horace Mann.
Duke-bound senior Oliver McCarthy got things going in the first, driving in Bryan Padilla with a two-out single. Ethan Wallis followed up with his own run-scoring single to make it a 2-0 game. Wallis stole third and took home on a throwing error to pad the lead and help Poly grab momentum. Padilla chipped in with another hit in the bottom of the fifth, and Angelo D’Acunto drove in the sixth Poly run with a single of his own.
“Once we put up even one, I’ll be honest with you, we felt really good,” Roventini said. “Then you put two, three, four and five, the next thing you know there’s a deep breath and you just say, let’s just get through where we’re at right now.”
The victory wasn’t without a bit of late-game drama, though, as the Poly bullpen allowed three runs in the top of the seventh inning.
But reliever Matt Santamouro took the mound with two outs and just one thought in mind: throw strikes. He needed only two pitches to wrap up the victory.
“The coaches basically just told me, come in, throw strikes and get the job done because that’s what I’ve been doing all year,” the senior said. “I’m not an overpowering pitcher. I don’t strike a lot of guys out, but I’m pretty good at commanding the zone.”
Poly, which didn’t lose a single game in New York this spring, has built a tradition of championships over the last few seasons, but winning hasn’t gotten old for the Blue Devils. If anything, each championship means just a bit more.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey and I loved every second of it,” Storz said. “I’d do it all over again if I could.”