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Luperon Edges Beacon In PSAL Championship Thriller + Other Notes on Grassroots Baseball & Shout Outs to Balanchine, Mendelssohn, NY City Ballet, and Yannick Nezet Seguin's Phila. Orch. & Rachmaninoff (updated)

There are some games when it is truly unjust that one team must lose.  Such was the case last Wednesday night June 12th when the Gregorio Luperon Generals nipped the Beacon Blue Demons, 5-4, for the Class AAA PSAL NYC high school title. 

 
In a 12-inning Yankee Stadium nail-biter that ended well after midnight, Beacon led for most of regulation and carried a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the 7th, usually the final inning in HS play.  But an overzealous throw from right field missed the cutoff man and allowed speedy Richard Vasquez, who pitched the first five innings, to reach second.

 

With the tying runs on second and third with one out, Beacon's RHP Adam Bogosian, in relief of fellow righthander Max Moss, notched a strikeout to bring the Blue Demons within one out of the school's first championship. He got ahead with two strikes on Luperon cleanup hitter Angel Castillo-Lopez who then dribbled the ball a few feet in front of home plate down the first base line.

 

Both Bogosian and catcher Greg Hurlbut instinctively went for the swinging bunt but there was no play at first as the third run scored. Operating on "pure instinct," Luperon coach Rico Pena said later, Vasquez never stopped running from second base.

 

With home plate still vacated, Bogosian dove for Vasquez who slid away from the tag to tie the game.

To Beacon's great credit, they fought Luperon on even terms for four extra innings until the bottom of 12th. Then Castillo-Lopez led off with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored the championship run on a a solid single up the middle by catcher Henry Pena-Mercedes.  

 

It was the first-ever title game for coaches Rico Pena and Beacon's Tom Covotsos of Beacon, two baseball veterans who really care about the game and the players.  Both schools are relatively new on the New York City scene and Covotsos and Pena are the only coaches the schools have ever employed.  

 

Talk about a sense of tradition. Rico Pena remembers he started coaching Luperon the same year Dellin Betances graduated from Brooklyn's Grand Street Campus - 2005. And Pena wears #24 in homage to Willie Mays who he never saw play but knows all about from reading and tales told him by his mentors. 

 
The first PSAL game last Wednesday also had its memorable moments. Competing for the Class AA title for schools with smaller enrollments, Brooklyn's Lafayette Patriots shut out Manhattan's Inwood Campus Gators,

2-0. Jason Jimenez hurled a complete game besting Inwood's Steven Santos. Lafayette flashy center fielder Brandon Prescod provided the key first RBI.  

 

What a thrill it must have been for all of the players to compete on the hallowed Yankee Stadium ground (even though the grandeur of the 1923 original is long gone).  Win or lose, the memories will always remain.

 

Beacon's star pitcher-second baseman Max Moss and center fielder Harper Diliberto-Bell are planning on playing at Clark University, the Division III school in Worcester, Mass. Already highly recruited by colleges, junior Adam Bogosian will return for his senior season. As will versatile shortstop-catcher Leo Jenkins, who kept the game alive by solid relief pitching in the extra innings and throughout the playoffs. 

 

Lafayette stars Jason Jimenez and Brandon Prescod are both heading north of the city to Dominican College.

 

In my continuing desire to watch baseball on lower levels - away from the overly noisy major league stadia -  I also enjoyed my first visit recently to the Soet Patriots independent Atlantic League franchise in Edgewater, New Jersey.  TD Bank ballpark may be twenty years old but it still looks spiffy. 

 

Independent league rosters are filled with older players hoping to get an another chance at affiliated baseball and the level of play can be spotty.  But I saw a well-played Patriots victory over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Check the website somersetpatriots.com for the upcoming schedule.  

 

Before the summer is over, I hope to venture out to Suffolk County to see the Long Island Ducks, Somerset's big rival in the Atlantic League who beat the Jerseyans out for the league title last season. 

 
One last note on grassroots baseball:  On a tour of Oriole affiliates Maryland last weekend, I was pleased by the atmosphere at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Single A-affiliate of the Orioles in the South Atlantic League (the Sally League).  The team is playing well and has an outstanding record, a rarity for any Oriole team these days.    

 

The Shorebirds' veteran gm Chris Bitters has a commitment to a baseball experience that is not overburdened by an ear-splitting sound system.  Last Saturday night, he even opened the gates at 4p for batting practice. 

It may not become a regular event because attendance was rather sparse, but Bitters deserves a tip of the cap for trying to create an atmosphere that reminds a fan of what the baseball experience used to be. 

 

Here's an another tip of the cap to the Michigan Wolverines who though unrated in college baseball's top 25 is undefeated so far in the College World Series in Omaha.  They have an ace southpaw pitcher Austin Henry who actually hurled a 100 pitch 3-hit shutout to get them close to the final best-of-three series.

 

Unheralded but gritty Michigan will make the final if they win a rematch against Texas Tech on Friday afternoon June 21 at 2p EDT.  Vanderbilt plays at 7p June 21 and makes the final if they beat winner of 7p Louisville-Mississippi State elimination game on June 20.  

 

Double-elimination tourneys can be confusing but they are simple in the later rounds.  Undefeated teams like Michigan and Vanderbilt need just one win to make final round.  Their opponents must beat them twice to get in. 

 

Before I close, though 2019 has started with major losses of my ex-wife to cancer and my beloved calico cat Sheba to kidney disease and old age, I have found that experiencing live arts in NYC remains a great consolation.

 

I saw a memorable production by the New York City Ballet of George Balanchine's choreography for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with Felix Mendelssohn's music.  The brilliant humorous dancing of Sara Mearns was truly outstanding.  

 

I also caught the Philadelphia Orchestra led by charismatic Yannick Nezet-Seguin at Carnegie Hall in a program of Stravinsky-Prokofieff-Rachmaninoff.  Rachmaninoff's First Symphony is rarely heard because its debut was such a disaster in Russia that the 24-year-old composer withdrew it from performance. 

 

It starts very traditionally Russian, almost as if the 24-year-old was writing Tchaikovsky's Seventh Symphony. Later movements veer into the realms of the unique brooding and yearning that Rachmaninoff would plumb more effectively later in his career.  Still glad I heard the 45-minute symphony, especially in the hands of Yannick who really cares about the music and draws out astonishing sounds from the wonderful Philadelphia ensemble.   

 

That's all for now.  As summer officially nears, always remember: Take it easy but take it!

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No NY College Baseball Cinderellas This Year But Two Newbies To Vie for PSAL Baseball Title At Yankee Stadium (updated)

In my last post, I saluted three NY area college baseball teams, Army, Fordham, and Stony Brook, that made the Division I regional playoffs leading to the College World Series starting on June 15 in Omaha.

 

There will be no NY-area Cinderella this year as all three teams were eliminated quickly in the double-elimination tourney. Yet players from each team were drafted in last week's annual MLB amateur free agent draft.

 

**Fordham RHP Kyle Martin was drafted in the 15th round by the Orioles.

**SUNY-Stony Brook CF Michael Wilson was picked in the 16th round by the Brewers.

** His SB teammate SS Nick Grande was chosen by the AZ Diamondbacks in the 19th round.

**Army's catcher Jacob Hurtubise was picked by Seattle Mariners in the 39th and next-to-last round. 

 

More below on other area players picked in the draft.  But first here's a heads-up on what should be a memorable matchup this coming Wed night June 12th at 7p at Yankee Stadium.  

 

The high school baseball championship of the PSAL (Public Schools Athletic League) will feature two newcomers to the title game, the Beacon Blue Demons versus the Gregorio Luperon Generals.  Both Manhattan schools earned the right to the title game by beating the previous two city champions, Grand Street coached by Mel Martinez and James Monroe led by Mike Turo.

 

Beacon won two out of three at Grand Street's home field in Brooklyn. Originally the school was called Eastern District HS (alma mater of late MLB RHP Saul Rogovin, later an English teacher at the school.  

 

Grand Street Campus is the alma mater of Yankee relief picher Dellin Betances (who unfortunately has suffered a setback in his battle with a sore shoulder). Beacon beat the 2016 PSAL champion behind two complete game performances by junior Adam Bogosian and senior Max Moss.

 

Tom Covotsos, the only baseball coach Beacon has had since the school was created in midtown Manhattan in the early 1990s, credits pitching and defense and knowing how to bunt and defend against the bunt as the keys to Beacon's rise to the title game.    

 

Under coach Rico Pena, Gregorio Luperon HS (named for a Dominican Republic general of the 19th century) deprived the Bronx's James Monroe HS of a three-peat.  Pena has a sense of baseball history because he brought members of his team a few years ago to the dedication of Willie Mays Plaza at 8th Ave and 155th Street above the New York Giants' legendary Polo Grounds. 

 

Before the Beacon-Luperon 7p game, there will be a 4pm matchup between Brooklyn's Lafayette HS and Manhattan's Inwood Campus, winners of semi-finals for schools with smaller enrollments than Beacon, Luperon, Grand Street, and Monroe..

 

It is free admission for both games. If you like good competition with WOODEN BATS, check out the action this coming Wednesday June 12th.

 

Now some more notes on the MLB draft with news of area players selected.

 

**The Yankees made SS Anthony Volpe their number one pick out of Delbarton School in Morristownl NJ. 

His teammate RHP Jack Leiter, son of former Yankee-Met LHP Al Leiter, was chosen in the 20th round by the Yanks but he is likely to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

 

[Speaking of Vanderbilt, they qualified yet again for the College World Series by eliminating Duke. Freshman RHP Kumar Rocker threw a no-hitter with 19 strikeouts to even the regional series and Vanderbilt routed Duke in the rubber match. 

 

And as of Monday morning June 10, only two spots remain in the 8-team CWS field.  Auburn and North Carolina will decide one spot, and Mississippi at Arkansas the other one later on Monday. 

 

Already in are Florida State, coach Mike Martin in his 40th and last year trying to win his first CWS title; Louisville; Michigan, Branch Rickey's law school alma mater that knocked off top national seed UCLA, Jackie Robinson's alma mater; Mississippi State; Texas Tech; and Vanderbilt.] 

 

More on the MLB draft selectees:

 **Columbia's LHP Josh Simpson was picked by the Miami Marlins in the 32nd round and is likely to forgo a fifth year of eligiblity at Duke to try his hand in the pros.

 

**The first Ivy Leaguer picked was Simon Whiteman, Yale SS, drafted in the 9th round by the Giants.  In the same week he found out that he was named an academic all-America. 

 
**Gavin Hollowell, a RHP from St. John's and New Jersey, was the first of several Red Storm players picked - in the sixth round by the Colorado Rockies.

 

**Ricky DeVito, RHP from Seton Hall, was the first Pirate to be drafted, in the 8th round by the Braves. 

 

**Gustavo Sosa, Tottenville HS catcher, was drafted in 19th round by the Blue Jays.  

I believe he was the first and perhaps the only PSAL player  drafted. 

 

But remember you can play pro ball even if you are not drafted.  Adam Jones, a top draft choice with Seattle who came to stardom with Orioles and is now with Diamondbacks, once put it beautifully:  "You are only a number one draft pick for one day."  

 

After that it is all about work ethic and the ability to bounce back from inevitable defeats in the often cruel grind of the pro game.  

 

That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it.

 


 

 

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