By John Torenli
Major League Baseball altered its playoff format this season, hoping a pair of winner-take-all, one-game playoffs would generate NFL-type ratings to kick off its annual journey toward the Fall Classic.
Here in Brooklyn, May is the new October, or at least it will feel that way this week.
Three local private school baseball powerhouses — Poly Prep of Bay Ridge, St. Ann’s of Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope’s Berkeley Carroll School – are slated to duke it out for division supremacy and a leg up entering this month’s state playoffs.
The Blue Devils, winners of five consecutive Ivy League crowns and the reigning New York State Private School champs, have finally hit their stride after a shaky start to the season.
With a 6-5 triumph over Collegiate on Monday, Poly (10-3) jumped to the top of the Ivy League standings with its seventh consecutive win.
Phil Maldari shone on the mound and Morgan Gray collected three hits, drove in a run and scored twice as the Blue Devils put themselves in position to wrap up yet another league title in Wednesday’s 4:30 p.m. game with visiting Fieldston.
Only last week, Poly coach Matt Roventini declared that his team was, “still trying to find its identity,” following its 3-3 start.
Having Andrew Zapata on the mound certainly solves any identity crisis the Devils might be having as they try to defend their championship.
Zapata, arguably the best high school pitcher in the entire city, if not the state, blanked Riverdale, 1-0, on Saturday and is likely to be on the hill in Wednesday’s key matchup with Fieldston.
“Andrew’s great,” Roventini told the Eagle. “He does what he does, competes at the highest level. It’s nice to see our bats wake up, but we don’t win without Andrew.”
Berkeley Carroll, which suffered an 8-1 loss to Zapata and the Blue Devils in last May’s NYSAISS Championship Game at Manhattanville College, is still on the revenge trail and in position for a potential rematch with Poly.
The Lions (12-1) rebounded from their first loss of the season with last week’s 17-0 dismantling of downtown rival Packer Collegiate as Ian Miller belted a grand slam, drove in six runs and pitched four scoreless innings before the Pelicans were mercy-ruled.
Fellow two-way star Anthony Spina added three hits for BCS, which will try to grab the ACIS/PSAA division crown during this week’s two-game series with St. Ann’s.
The Steamers opened the door for the Lions to earn a share of first place by suffering what coach Peter Zerneck called a “disappointing loss” to Staten Island Academy, 5-2, on Friday in the opening game of a critical two-game set.
St. Ann’s did bounce back with a 5-4 victory on Saturday as senior Willis Cohen struck out seven in his second consecutive complete-game win. Senior left fielder Graham Dietz went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for the Steamers, who tied BCS with a 5-1 mark in Alliance division play.
The local clubs were scheduled to square off Wednesday and Thursday (weather permitting).
Packer shrugged off its blowout loss to BCS by blanking Dwight, 8-0, behind David Geracioti’s 16-strikeout, two-hit gem, setting the Pelicans (9-4) up for this week’s visit from SIA at Red Hook Field.
On the Catholic School scene, Xaverian remained unbeaten (12-0, 9-0 CHSAA) with a 13-4 rout of St. Edmund Prep on Monday as Tommy Anselmo tossed five innings of two-hit ball.
Though it’s been six weeks since Boys and Girls walked off the Madison Square Garden floor with its third consecutive PSAL basketball championship, Brooklyn’s Kangaroos got their due at City Hall on Monday.
Coach Ruth Lovelace, who became the first women’s coach ever to capture an AA State Championship last month in Albany, joined her players as they were honored by Councilman Al Vann.
Each Kangaroo received a special proclamation, meeting with Council Speaker and 2013 mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.
Not to be forgotten, the Boys and Girls track and field team was also honored after winning the PSAL indoor crown and two national titles in relay competition.
“It never gets old,” noted Lovelace of visiting City Hall with her players. “Three years in a row.”
Next season, the ‘Roos will bid for their fourth consecutive city crown, a feat achieved only once previously by Brooklyn rival Lincoln from 2006-09.