By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Xaverian didn’t expect Jeffrey Manzi to have a huge impact on this year’s team. Xaverian wasn’t even expected to have a big season. After it lost 17 seniors from last year’s squad, the word “rebuilding” was thrown around.
When a pitcher, who was expected to be the No. 3 starter going into the year, becomes one of the hardest-working players on the team unexpected things start to happen.
Manzi is not fortunate enough to hail from Brooklyn. He’s from Queens. However, every single day he wakes up early and travels over an hour to Bay Ridge for 7:00 a.m. practices. Once he’s there, he isn’t just going through the motions and instead is one of the hardest working players on the team. As one of just seven seniors, he feels compelled.
“I'm very proud of him,” said Xaverian’s manager Frank Del George. “He works very hard, he lives out in Queens and comes into Brooklyn every morning for 7:00 a.m. practices and works very hard while we're here; you just don’t see that from a lot of kids.”
Manzi’s work ethic is what gave Del George the confidence to use him in one of Xaverian’s biggest games of the season. That hard work and faith paid off as Manzi settled in after a tough start to shut down Kennedy Catholic High School in a 3-1 quarterfinals victory in Gravesend on Monday.
“This was a big revenge game for us,” Manzi said. “They beat us 10-0 last week so I had to make sure that we could get them back. I’m a senior on this team and there are only seven of us so we have to be the ones to step up.
Xaverian had scored six runs in the game prior on Sunday, but had struggled offensively leading up to that game as it scored no runs in a loss to Kennedy and just one run in a victory over Iona Prep. It wasn’t a spectacular outburst on Monday -- but the runs came early, and that went a long way to helping Manzi settle in.
“I usually get better as the game goes on anyway, but having runs on the board early makes it easier to pitch because you have confidence that one mistake won’t cost you,” Manzi explained.
The Clippers scored two runs in the first inning. Anthony Scotti started it off by getting hit by a pitch and Joseph Vitacco singled to left. Both runners advanced on a double steal and then scored when Brandon Torres, the hero from Sunday’s win over Salesian, singled to right to make it 2-0.
Xaverian added another run in the second when Chris Amato reached on an infield single, moved up when Scotti walked, stole third and scored after the catcher launched the ball into left field on the stolen base attempt.
Those were all the runs that Manzi needed. He loaded the bases in the first, but escaped the jam thanks in part to a 6-6-3 double play started by Phoenix Hernandez. After a strong second, Manzi ran into more trouble in the third when he allowed a run to score after a hit by pitch, a walk and then a single by Griffin Dey.
After that run, Manzi went on a tear. He retired 12 batters in a row and completely dominated until a single broke up his streak in the top of the seventh. He didn’t get rattled at that point, even as his second baseman made an error, and finished the game.
“They got lucky in that first game,” Torres said. “This game, we played much more like ourselves and stepped up our pitching and defense and we won. Jeff was great too. He’s a senior and knows that there is responsibility that comes with that.”
Xaverian is back in action on Wednesday against St. Joseph by-the-Sea, a team that Del George highly respects. “I really think that St. Joe's is the best team in the city. They have a really good balance of players, they have great defense, really good pitching and can swing the bat a bit. I always thought they would be in the final,” he said.