By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ed D'Alessio has managed the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology baseball team to the playoffs every single year he has coached the team since 2001. In all that time, though, his team was never able to even get to the championship game let alone win one.
That all changed on Sunday as the Yellow Jackets finally got over that hump and beat Norman Thomas 4-1 at MCU Park in Coney Island for their first ever Public School Athletic League (PSAL) championship in the school’s history.
“Every year this team has made the playoffs. Last year we made it to the semifinals, but we had to wait until this year to finally win the championship,” said first baseman Austin Ruiz. “Everybody came together as a family and we did it. It feels amazing.”
All those years of coming close but never making it left many with a perception that Telecomm could not win this game. The Yellow Jackets had a perfect 16-0 record heading into the playoffs, but got a No. 4 rank in the playoff bracket. They even had arguably the best player in the city in Josh Palacios, who hit .667 with four home runs and 12 extra-base hits this season. Still, Norman Thomas was still considered by many to be the favorites to win.
“It was beautiful because all year we never got the opportunity to win a game and get the credit we deserved,” said center fielder Josh Palacios. “We were undefeated, but we were still ranked No. 4. I don’t think teams are going to take us for granted from now on.”
Yellow Jackets ace Chris Lee lead the way in this game. He pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts. The only time he struggled even a little bit was in the sixth inning, when Norman Thomas put runners on second and third, thanks to a single and an error. However, Lee gave up just one run on a sacrifice fly and was able to retire three batters in a row to escape the jam.
“I've never even pitched in front of 100 people, let alone the 500 or so who were there today so I was fired up,” Lee said. “My fastball had a lot of crisp movement, and I was able to get my curveball over and spot my changeup. It helped me to get a lot of ground balls.”
The offense missed a golden opportunity in the third inning, when Palacios was thrown out at home on a failed suicide squeeze attempt with just one out. The Yellow Jackets made up for it with a pair of runs in the fifth inning, when freshman catcher Isaiah Spears drove in a run on a fielder’s choice and Brandon Marquez walked with the bases loaded to make it 2-0.
The Yellow Jackets added a few more runs in the sixth on an error by Norman Thomas’ second baseman and a RBI single by Spears that made the score 4-1.
After the game, coach D'Alessio said that he was not surprised to see the freshman come through in a big spot. "He's been clutch. He came on big in the second half for us, and he's gotten a lot of big hits for us late in the season and in the playoffs. By the end of the year, I started to expect it.”
Palacios admitted afterward that he was disappointed by not being selected in the MLB draft the week before, but forced himself not to let it affect his on the field performance. “Even though I didn't get drafted, we're a team. Whatever is happening in my personal life I'm not going to let it affect me on the field.”
The Yellow Jackets dedicated the win to Lee's mother, Deanna, who survived Stage 2 breast cancer, and Ruiz's father, Eliseo, who had knee surgery last week. “This means everything to me, seeing my mom up there, seeing her healthy now,” Lee said. “It just added fire.”
Coach D'Alessio knows his team is well respected throughout the city and said the championship does nothing to change that. He explained that the only way for this team to be considered truly elite is for them to keep up their winning ways. “Seven out of 10 of the players on the field are underclassmen, and we have a strong JV team. I think we'll have a real good program for the next few years.”