By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It was just a month ago that Poly Prep varsity baseball coach Matt Roventini admitted his team was suffering an “identity crisis,” citing a 3-3 start as the main cause for the defending state champions’ uncharacteristic early-season mediocrity.
Heading into Wednesday’s NYSAISS private school state championship game (weather permitting) against Fieldston on the campus of Manhattanville College in Westchester, N.Y., the Blue Devils appear to have found themselves, and then some.
Bolstered by the brilliant pitching of Andrew Zapata, the clutch hitting of Phil Maldari and key contributions from Andrew Doar and Morgan Gray, Roventini’s squad has reeled off 16 victories in its last 17 games, including a pair of wins in last weekend’s NYSAISS playoffs.
“We thought this was a group of kids that was going to stick together,” Roventini told the Eagle on Tuesday from his office at the Bay Ridge Country Day School. “At times we didn’t play as well as we thought we should, but they continued to work hard. In the end, when we struggled we never pulled apart. But as our kids know, the job’s not done yet.”
The Blue Devils rode six strong innings from Weber Lawrence and two hits and two RBIs by Matt Caposio to an 11-1 rout of Columbia Prep in Bay Ridge during Saturday’s opening round before edging Horace Mann, 2-1, in Sunday’s semifinal.
Maldari’s run-scoring triple delivered the winning run against Horace Mann after Gray and Zapata, the likely, though unconfirmed, starter in Wednesday’s title game vs. Fieldston, combined to shut down the Lions’ offense.
It was an 8-7 loss to Fieldston on April 13 followed by a 3-2 home defeat to St. Joseph’s by the Sea that dropped Poly to it’s disappointing .500 record only six games into the season.
The Blue Devils avenged the loss to Fieldston with an 11-1 home victory on May 12, helping them wrap up a sixth consecutive Ivy League championship en route to their sixth straight NYSAISS title game.
The third and final meeting between the squads is slated for a 3:30 p.m. first pitch.
“They were clearly in the top half of our league and we feel like these are the two teams that presented the best match-up in the end,” Roventini said of Fieldston. “As far as a rivalry goes, any time you play for the state title, it’s a rivalry. I think the 1-2 seeds were the right ones.”
Unfortunately, Brooklyn’s other two representatives in the NYSAISS Tournament were both eliminated. ACIS champion and fourth-seeded Berkeley Carroll School suffered a tough 3-2 loss to Horace Mann in Brooklyn on Saturday.
The Lions, who pulled out a heart-stopping, 2-1, eight-inning victory over Saint Ann’s for the ACIS crown last Wednesday, got six solid innings on the mound from junior Anthony Spina, who also drove in a run.
But Horace Mann’s Elias Wacht tossed a complete game to end BCS’s bid for a second straight NYSAISS championship game appearance. Last year, Poly beat BCS, 8-1, for the state crown up in Westchester.
“We’re happy with our season as a whole, but this one still hurts,” admitted BCS’s Adam Kochman, who drove home the winning run in last week’s ACIS Championship Game at MCU Park by drawing a bases-loaded walk-off from Saint Ann’s starter Ivan Zeavin-Moss.
Saint Ann’s dropped a 12-3 decision to Fieldston on Saturday, bringing a bittersweet end to a solid campaign by coach Peter Zerneck’s senior-laden roster.
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The Brooklyn Friends varsity baseball team qualified for its third consecutive Private School Athletic Association championship game last Thursday with a 9-1 victory over Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Red Hook.
Junior Misha Holzman, a candidate for PSAA MVP honors, went the distance on the mound and delivered an RBI single during a six-run fourth-inning outburst as the Blue Pride earned a shot at the first back-to-back titles in the program’s history.
Coach Jake Pittari’s unit will meet Martin Luther in the championship game at Coney Island’s MCU Park, which was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday but is more than likely to be pushed back to Wednesday.
Senior Oscar Parajon, junior Theo Eagle, senior Kevin Rivera and sophomore Adam Ginsberg each made key contributions at the plate in Thursday’s semifinal victory, with Ginsberg ripping a two-run single during the decisive fourth-inning rally.
Holzman allowed an unearned run while striking out nine over seven scintillating innings.
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Though his private school varsity career came to an end with a loss to Saint Ann’s in last week’s ACIS playoffs, Packer Collegiate senior Nick Morton fully intends to play on.
The hard-hitting center fielder batted .533 with 17 RBIs, 22 runs scored and a .982 fielding percentage for the Pelicans during his final campaign on Joralemon Street.
Morton, who is being recruited by Trinity University in San Antonio, will play competitive summer ball in the Westchester Rockland Wood Bat League, according to the Brooklyn Heights school’s Athletic Awareness Committee.