By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Will Reagan doesn't consider himself a baseball player, he's a basketball player that plays baseball, but he could end up being just the type of player that Berkeley Carroll needs to get over the hump and win a state championship that has eluded them over the last few years.
The Lions have fallen just short in two of the last three years. Three years ago, they lost 1-0 to Poly Prep in the state finals and last season it was Poly that beat them again in the semifinals 2-0. Poly Prep didn’t score an earned run in either game.
“They’ve been games where one mistake was the difference,” Berkeley Carroll head coach Walter Paller said. “We’re still waiting for them to score an earned run off of us.”
That’s where Reagan comes in. He’s not a bulking power hitter. Instead, he’s a skinny kid that only started playing baseball three years ago, but he’s a solid defender that excels at the little things. That’s what Berkeley Carroll is trying to do this season — focus on the little things.
"I'm not really a baseball player," said Reagan, who Paller called the best defensive left fielder in the city. "But if you look at my game, I've been able to improve a lot of the last few years and I feel good out there now. I just try to do the little things. Get on base any way I can, steal a base if I can, try to move guys over. It's just scrappy baseball."
That’s how a lot of the team is this year, the Lions don’t have big power hitters, but they have an excellent pitching staff, they play exceptional defense, and they focus on picking up any runs they can.
“We've faced some tough teams and we know that a key bunt here, a steal there, that can win us the game,” said Ian Miller, the team’s ace starter. “I really like playing like that. We pitch and play defense so we can hold it to a run or two runs. We always say that if we score one they have to score two to beat us. We really try for that first run, be aggressive, take the extra base.”
That's not to say they don't have good hitters, they do. Infielder Richard Palacios is great at getting on base, Chris Harper and Miller provide pop in the middle of the lineup and they have a few other guys that can swing the stick. This is a team, though, that knows that it can’t just slug its way through a big game so the focus has been on gaining any advantage that it can.
The biggest reason they are comfortable playing close games is because of that pitching staff. Miller, a Harvard-bound pitcher, is one of the best in the city with excellent control and plenty of movement on his pitches. With Harper, Jake Simpson and Justin Pacheco behind him, they are one of the most, if not the most, formidable pitching staff in Brooklyn.
“Our strength is our pitching staff,” Paller said. “We don't walk guys, we hold runners on, we have an excellent catcher in Yanai Feldman and overall we play terrific defense. When we score runs, we can make those runs stand up.”
So far this season the formula has paid off as the Lions are 10-0-1 so far. The big test is still coming with Poly Prep looming on May 5. That’s a date that has been circled on the calendar since last season.
“Last season we beat them 1-0 and lost to them 2-0,” Miller said. “It's a bit of a back and forth. It's always that one play that haunts you a little bit which is why we've really put the emphasis on scratching out runs this season. There aren't going to be any 15-10 scores between us and this is something that we really want.
“I’m done worrying about personal achievements, I want that crown jewel, that state championship,” Miller said.