By John Torenli
In a stirring championship game befitting one of the best baseball rivalries in Brooklyn, the Berkeley Carroll Lions literally walked off with the Athletic Conference of Independent Schools crown Wednesday via a 2-1 victory over Saint Ann’s during a sun-drenched matinee epic at Coney Island’s MCU Park.
The difference between these two clubs was razor thin all season long as both finished with identical marks in ACIS play, with BCS grabbing first place by virtue of a tiebreaker on run differential.
As hard as it may have been to imagine entering the contest, the title game more than exceeded expectations.
After eight tantalizing innings of dead even baseball, the third straight one-run game between the Lions and Steamers came down to a bases-loaded walk drawn by Adam Kochman off Saint Ann’s starter Ivan-Zeavin Moss, who went the distance in a heroic performance on the hill despite a bad ankle.
“It’s very rewarding,” said BCS coach Walter Paller. “I don’t remember winning [a championship game] on a walk, but that might be the only way we were going to decide this game.”
The Steamers stunned the Lions earlier this month with a wild 8-7 victory and BCS returned the favor behind the brilliant pitching of Ian Miller in a 1-0 triumph last week.
Paller summoned eventual ACIS Tournament MVP Miller in the sixth on Wednesday after junior southpaw Jacob Udewitz tossed five gutty frames to keep pace with Zeavin-Moss, who yielded only one earned run on two hits while fanning seven.
Udewitz, who texted Paller on Tuesday indicating that he was ready to take the ball for the title game, gave up an unearned run on three hits with five big strikeouts.
“Jacob was the man today,” beamed Paller, who will get his second-seeded Lions ready in a hurry for Saturday’s clash with No. 5 Horace Mann in the NYSAISS playoffs. “He really wanted to stay out there [after the fifth inning].”
Miller, who was ready to fire some pitches on his scheduled throw day, followed with three clutch frames of one-hit baseball, keeping the Lions even until they finally broke through against Zeavin-Moss.
“A day like today, he probably would have pitched 10 innings,” Paller said of the Saint Ann’s right-hander, one of nine seniors on coach Peter Zerneck’s squad, which also earned a coveted invite to the state championships as the No. 7 seed.
Kochman, who walked and scored the Lions’ first run in the third inning, displayed great patience at the plate again with the bases jammed in the eighth.
He took four straight pitches, including the last one in the dirt, to launch a jubilant celebration for the Lions, who were forced to skip last year’s ACIS playoffs due to a series of rainouts and their obligation to compete in the NYSAISS Tournament.
“It bothered me to see us go undefeated [last year] and not be crowned champions,” admitted Paller, who led the Lions to the brink of the state title last May before a tough loss to Poly Prep in the championship game.
When accepting the championship trophy from the ACIS commissioner, Paller was quick to give a nod to the opposition, imploring the Steamers to, “win some games at the state tournament,” in order to continue the swelling rivalry, perhaps even with the NYSAISS title on the line.
“I want to see the teams from our league get the recognition they deserve,” said Paller. “It’s not done.”
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Defending state champion Poly Prep grabbed the No. 1 overall seed in the NYSAISS Tournament after capturing its sixth consecutive Ivy League crown last week.
The Blue Devils, winners of 14 of their last 15 games, are awaiting a first-round opponent Saturday in Bay Ridge. Saint Ann’s will meet Churchill on Friday with a possible trip to Poly Prep on tap for Saturday if they emerge victorious.
The NYSAISS Championship Game will be at Manhattanville College in Westchester at 3:30 p.m. next Wednesday. Last year, Poly topped BCS, 8-1, in the final in a game that the Blue Devils didn’t blow open until the final two innings.