By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Having homered once already that day, Juan Rodriguez stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth to try to extend Telecomm's 4-3 lead when Grand Street Campus made the decision to remove starting pitcher Emanuel Castellano from the game.
With the wind blowing hard and the rain increasing, Grand Street manager Steve Martinez went with his best pitcher with the game on the line — the 6-foot-2 senior Alexander Cuas.
“(Rodriguez) hit a home run earlier and I knew that it was on a curveball,” Cuas said. “I saw that so I wanted to see how he handled my fastball away. He likes to pull the ball so I knew that if I kept throwing him fastballs away that I could get him out.”
Cuas got Rodriguez chase a fastball to escape the jam. He then settled in to toss two more perfect innings which allowed the Grand Street Campus Wolves a chance to mount its comeback and beat the Telecomm Yellow Jackets 6-4 in Bushwick on Tuesday afternoon.
“(Cuas and Castellano) are really two of the best pitchers in the city,” said Telecomm’s manager Ed D'Alessio. “He was on his A-game today which is pretty good in this weather. He threw hard and he was under control.”
Cuas faced seven batters and retired them all, but it might not have mattered had it not been for the clutch hitting of catcher Marcus Chavez, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. The big hit came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Chavez drove the ball to deep left field that scored Andrew Narvaez and Ruben Vazquez to take a 5-4 lead.
Chavez showed good energy on the bases as well when he tried to steal third base during the next at bat. He was nearly picked off, but a throwing error saved him and let him score to give the Wolves their 6-4 lead. Ironically, Chavez had been disciplined just the day before by his manager for showing a lack of energy and hustle.
“We have a lot of expectations this year so I want to see a lot from my players energywise,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t seeing what I expected from him so I pulled him aside yesterday and had a conversation with him and it changed. I told him I expected more and this was the best game he's played this year, a totally different ball player.”
Telecomm’s Rodriguez is actually a pitcher himself and doesn’t typically get into the lineup. He’s 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA during league games so D’Alessio doesn’t want to see him get hurt. However, after the Yellow Jackets started the season with 17 players, they are down to 12 and he had no choice, but to use him.
“They told me that he could hit the (seams off) of the ball during the offseason,” D’Alessio said of Rodriguez, who wears Babe Ruth’s No. 3 on his back, another pitcher turned hitter. “So I threw him some batting practice and I could see they were right. I don’t like using him because I don’t want him to get hurt, but that home run he hit was a bomb. That was one of the longest homers I’ve ever seen.”
This was a big win for Grand Street. The Wolves won the Public School Athletic League's city championship two seasons ago and Telecomm won it last year. When the two teams played each other during the regular season last year, Telecomm came out on top and Grand Street never got it’s chance at revenge after it was eliminated early in the playoffs. That left the Wolves with a sour taste in their mouths.
“This was huge,” Cuas said. “They're the champions and they got over on us last year. We wanted to see them in the championship, but we didn't make it. We know a lot of those guys. A lot of us play with them during the offseason so its become a friendly rivalry.“
As both teams have championship aspirations yet again this season, both are hoping that this won’t be the last matchup between them and they want to face each other again at Yankee Stadium.