By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Berkeley Carroll School varsity baseball coach Walter Paller intimated just last week that staff ace Ian Miller was one of the best-kept secrets on the local high school baseball scene.
So much for the hard-throwing right-hander's brief bout with obscurity.
Miller edged Poly Prep's Phil Maldari during a classic pitchers' duel in Bay Ridge on Monday afternoon, lifting the Lions to a 1-0 victory over the two-time defending New York State Independent School champions that gave them a perfect 6-0 start to their season.
"I'd say the cats out of the bag now with Ian," Paller told the Eagle on Tuesday after BCS completed a grueling stretch against non-league opponents with an as-yet unblemished record entering their Athletic Conference of Independent Schools opener against Staten Island Academy.
"You'd have to be living in a box," Paller added. "You probably should know who he is. But it's fine if nobody wants to pay attention."
The Blue Devils, who lost the 2009 NYSAISS title game to Paller's Lions in 2009 before returning the favor in 2011 and retaining their crown last spring, certainly won't be overlooking Miller if the teams are fortunate enough to meet again in a few months with the state championship on the line.
Poly was held to two hits by the reigning ACIS Tournament MVP, and Miller even scored the game's only run when sophomore Chris Harper plated him from second with a clutch RBI single in the fifth inning.
"With Poly Prep's pitching, the formula for victory is you have to match their pitching and defense and basically win a one-run game and we did that," noted Paller, whose team captured the ACIS crown last year but suffered a gutwrenching loss in round one of the state championship tournament. "Phil Maldari was tremendous and Ian Miller was a tiny bit better."
After a strong spring training in Florida, Paller's unit was confronted with a challenging slate to begin the regular season. But the Lions have thus-far navigated their way through Connecticut's Danbury High School, Staten Island's Susan Wagner, Catholic School rival Xaverian and a trio of Ivy League foes -- Columbia Prep, Riverdale and Hackley -- before Monday's statement win at Poly.
The Lions' pitching and defense have been superb throughout the first two weeks, with the exception of last Thursday's 20-10 slugfest win over Columbia Prep. Through six games, BCS has yielded one run or fewer in all but two contests.
"This is a year, because we are playing a tough [non-league] schedule, that I thought there was a chance we would lose close games against Xaverian, Poly Prep and Hackley -- schools that have predominantly been strong over the years," Paller conceded. "But I thought it would give us a strong backbone during the year. I'd be lying if I thought I expected [us to win all those games]. I feel like we've achieved at the highest level, but I just hope it's not [coming] too early."
After SIA, the Lions will get a brief reprieve from their coach as they have a few days before diving into the bulk of their league schedule next Monday against Brooklyn Heights' St. Ann's school, the team they defeated in a thrilling, extra-inning ACIS title game at MCU Park last season.
"We don't get any rest," Paller said of returning to ACIS play. "Staten island Academy is looking to do to us what we did [to Poly on Monday]. We've got to bring our A-game. Then we start to hit our league schedule a little bit more consistently over the next few weeks. Obviously we need to win to be 1-0 in the league. I'm going to give the boys a couple of days off after the SIA game."
Judging from their fast start and impressive record, it will be a rest well earned for the title-hungry Lions.
St. Ann's, which graduated a bushel of seniors from last year's ACIS runner-up squad, got in the win column for the first time this season Monday by edging non-league foe Trinity, 6-5, in its home opener.
Connor Haseley went the distance on the hill and fellow sophomore Moses Rubin contributed three hits, a run scored and a stolen base for the Steamers, who will begin league play Wednesday against neighborhood rival Packer Collegiate.
St. Ann's was outscored 18-0 in its first two contests against Dwight and LUHI, respectively, but bounced back nicely against Trinity, according to coach Peter Zerneck.
"We lost 10 very strong seniors last year, so this team is composed mostly of new, younger guys," said Zerneck, who brings back only three players from the team that went 1-2 in three tough one-run games against eventual champion BCS last spring. "They're figuring it out as they go."