By John Torenli
As the reigning New York State Private School champions, the Blue Devils of Poly Prep Country Day School carry the burden of great expectations into this new baseball season.
They also appear up to the task of fulfilling their ultimate goal: a repeat of last year’s title-winning campaign.
With a 1-0 whitewashing of non-league rival Monsignor Farrell last Thursday in Bay Ridge, the Blue Devils kicked off what many expect to be another big year.
Phil Maldari yielded just two hits over six innings before Andrew Zapata slammed the door in the seventh as Poly Prep posted its first win since knocking off Park Slope rival Berkeley Carroll, 8-1, in last season’s NYSAIS Championship game at Manhattanville College.
The title game triumph came after Poly had lost the NYSAIS championship in each of the previous two years.
With a core of returning starters, including Zapata, who pitched the Blue Devils to the championship last May against the Lions, coach Matt Roventini has reason to be excited about defending the state crown and capturing a sixth consecutive Ivy League title.
“We are looking to continue our success in the Ivy League as well as against an excellent non-league schedule,” said Roventini. “We worked exceptionally hard this off-season in our new indoor facility, and I think the players are ready for a tough challenge this season.”
Poly, which improved to 2-0 with Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Riverdale, faces a stiff early season challenge Saturday against reigning CHSAA champion and neighborhood rival Xaverian.
BCS, which is always a contender for the state crown and certainly the class of the Athletic Conference of Independent Schools, is off to a quick 3-0 start under long-time coach Walter Paller, who watched his Lions cruise to a 12-2 rout of Columbia Prep on Tuesday.
Freshman Chris Harper fanned five en route to his first win as a Lion and key returnee Anthony Spina went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs for BCS, which was looking forward to this week’s showdown with Brooklyn Heights rival Packer Collegiate.
The Pelicans, who just got back to our fair borough following their spring training in Florida, will be led this year by senior star Nick Morton, who has already committed to attend Trinity University in San Antonio, Tex., next year. Trinity is currently ranked as the top Division III baseball program in the nation.
Morton batted .467 with 22 RBIs, 26 steals and a .578 on-base percentage last year. Listed among the top players in the city, the All-ACIS selection is also Packer’s team captain.
The Steamers of St. Ann’s are hungry for a title this year, according to coach Peter Zerneck.
ACIS Championship Game runners-up in each of the previous three seasons, the Steamers look to finally break through and capture the title which has thus far avoided them.
St. Ann’s small, but experienced roster is spearheaded by returning staff ace Ivan Zeavin-Moss, second baseman Willis Cohen and center fielder Jack Harnett, all of whom will share captain duties.
“We’re a small team this year, but a veteran one with nine seniors on the squad, “ Zerneck noted. “Those three [captains] have been to the league championship game three years in a row without getting a win and are chomping at the bit in this, their final shot at it.”
On Tuesday, St. Ann’s opened its season with a wild 11-10 victory over Dwight and followed it up with an 11-1 rout of Long Island Lutheran.
Senior catcher Nico Premutico went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and four runs scored in the season opener, and his younger brother, sophomore Sam Premutico, earned the win in relief.
Zeavin-Moss strutted his stuff Wednesday, striking out 11 over six innings in a complete-game effort. Sophomore shortstop Gideon Davidson smacked a pair of doubles and a triple for the Steamers, who improved to 2-0 entering their next game vs. Riverdale.
“As a team led by nine seniors, it’s great to start the season off with two victories,” noted Cohen. “Although our expectations are high, we are confident and excited to reach our goal through perseverance and hard work, and come together as a cohesive unit and win a championship.”
“Although we started the pre-season with 15 guys on the roster, because of various reasons we lost three players and now have only 12 on the varsity roster,” Zerneck added. “It’s a bit scary going into a long season with only 12, but I think they can do it. It’s a strong group composed of nine seniors. We’re attempting something we’ve never done before — win it all with 12 strong.”
Rounding out the local baseball squads is Brooklyn Friends, which has dominated on the “B” level in recent years.
The Blue Pride, coached by Jake Pittari, is coming off consecutive Independent School Athletic League titles and its first-ever Private School Athletic Association crown after going 21-1 in 2011.
Owen Kimmel, a key member of last year’s team, is currently playing for John Jay College.
The Pride will host the Garden School at Coney Island’s MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, on April 16 in their biggest upcoming game.