Poly Prep enters state tourney with 'chip' on its shoulder
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Winner of the last two New York State Independent School baseball championship trophies and seven consecutive Ivy League crowns, Poly Prep has already established itself as a Brooklyn baseball dynasty.
But entering their quest for an unprecedented third straight NYSAISS crown this weekend, the Blue Devils will have some added motivation when they take on the state's top private school varsity baseball squads.
Despite their lofty status on the tri-state hardball scene, and a very challenging regular-season schedule that saw them go 13-8 overall, including an 11-3 mark in the ultra-competitive Ivy League, Matt Roventini's reigning champions received the No. 4 seed in the annual tournament.
In a phone interview with the Eagle just 24 hours after the first-round playoff pairings were officially announced, the Poly Prep coach took the NYSAISS rankings to task for what he viewed as a baffling system.
"I think [the seedings] are extremely short-sighted," Roventini said via telephone from his offices at the Bay Ridge Country Day School. "That's no bearing on any of the other teams. But [No. 1 Berkeley Carroll] is the only team that is seeded exactly where it should be."
Armed with arguably the best pitching rotation in the state, with Andrew Zapata, Phil Maldari and Morgan Gray as the top-three hurlers, the Blue Devils find themselves two slots behind No. 2 Fieldston, a team they beat out for the Ivy crown this season.
"Our goal, No. 1, is always to win the league. We beat Fieldston this year," noted Roventini, who will lead his team against fifth-seeded Rye in the opening round.
Judging from their previous history in the tournament -- Poly has grabbed four of the previous six NYSAISS Championships -- the seeding committee may have unintentionally done the Blue Devils a favor with the perceived slight.
"Hopefully, we'll have a chip on our shoulder," Roventini intimated when asked if the No. 4 seeding would give the Blue Devils extra motivation this weekend. "We have as tough a road [to the state championship] as you can ask for. They'll challenge us and I know we'll be ready."
The still-unbeaten Lions of Park Slope's Berkeley Carroll School will await the winner of Friday's play-in game between Birch Wathan Lenox and and Columbia Prep.
BCS, which captured the ACIS Tournament title for the second consecutive year on Tuesday at Coney Island's MCU Park, is a combined 19-0 this season, including a perfect 17-0 run through the regular campaign.
Perhaps the Lions' most impressive win during the thus-far unblemished campaign was a 1-0 victory at Poly Prep on April 8. That contest featured an epic pitchers' duel between BCS junior staff ace Ian Miller and Maldari, with the lone Lions' run scoring via an RBI single by sophomore Chris Harper in the fifth inning.
If both schools emerge victorious in their first-round games during the NYSAISS Tournament, an all-Brooklyn second-round encounter is a strong possibility.
BCS beat Poly in the NYSAISS Final in 2009 before the Blue Devils returned the favor in 2011 on their way to a state-championship repeat last spring.
The complete seedings for the NYSAISS Tournament are listed below:
1. Berkeley Carroll (Park Slope)
3. L.I. Lutheran
4. Poly Prep (Bay Ridge)
6. Horace Mann
9.Birch Wathan Lenox
Beaten, but certainly not defeated, the Brooklyn Friends varsity softball squad saw its opportunity for an Independent School Athletic League Championship slip through its fingers Wednesday afternoon at Brooklyn's Van Voorhies Park, despite yet another gallant late comeback.
The Blue Pride, which had reeled off six straight wins, including three in a row of the walk-off variety to close the regular season, dropped a 14-11 decision to Elisabeth Irwin High School in the ISAL Final, leaving coach David Gardell'a squad one win shy of a miraculous run from mid-season mediocrity to elite status.
"Its okay, we had a great season and everyone improved," Gardella said. "We have no seniors, so we look forward to continued success and more fun out on the diamond. We will be back."
Having dropped a 13-3 decision to LREI back on April 17, the Blue Pride was primed and ready to pull an upset in the championship rematch, but fell behind 7-1 by the third inning.
Undaunted, BFS staged one of its patented rallies as Julia Greenwald's three-run double in the third and fellow junior Julia Breen's sacrifice fly in the fourth helped forge a 7-7 deadlock.
Irwin powered its way back to a 13-7 advantage heading into the fifth before BFS again made it interesting with back-to-back RBI singles by sophomore Ariel Goldner and junior Sophie Adelman. Pinch-hitter Sage Meade, another promising second-year player, followed with a two-run knock as BFS climbed within 13-11.
But LREI, which was unbeaten during the ISAL regular season, held on thereafter, thwarting any hopes of BFS' fourth walk-off win in five games when the final out was recorded with two on and Greenwald poised on deck, waiting to deliver another game-winning hit.