There was extra “oomph,” as Richie Carbone called it, in the Poly Prep dugout on April 22. Berkeley Carroll, the same club that shocked the Blue Devils in last year’s NYSAISAA title game, was in Bay Ridge.
Catcher Marcus Hernandez and left fielder James Friel, who hail from Park Slope – within hailing distance of the small private school – made sure their teammates were prepared for the rematch. Coach Matt Roventini told his players: “Prove you’re the better team.”
Carbone made sure of that.
The senior southpaw tossed seven shutout innings, going the distance for the third time this spring, Poly Prep scored four first-inning runs and coasted to a 5-0, non-league victory that held plenty of significance to last year’s holdovers.
“Winning does not take away from last year – they won the championship – but it’s nice to come out and show this year we’re the better team,” Carbone said. “We definitely have a rivalry. They are a team we respect, but we also hate, and we want to beat them every time out.”
Carbone was in total command, limiting the Lions to just two hits – a fourth-inning, opposite-field single by Nate Barr and Joey Martinez’s sixth-inning double – and struck out five. He didn’t walk a batter and retired the first 11 hitters he faced.
“Honestly, I could catch another game right now,” Hernandez said. “He didn’t make me work one bit. He hit every spot. He had his fastball, curve, changeup working.”
The Blue Devils gave him all the support he needed in the first, scratching out four runs against Joey Martinez. J.J. Franco led off the first with a sharp single, second baseman E.J. Martinez was hit by a pitch, and Hernandez drove Franco in with an infield single. E.J. Martinez scored on Friel’s RBI groundout and rightfielder Matt Caposio plated two more with a two-out, two-run double to right-center.
“It put them on their heels and let us be aggressive,” Roventini said. “It changed the game. It gets played differently. They have to be a little less aggressive, we can be a little more aggressive.”
Berkeley Carroll (6-3) played Poly Prep even from therein as the hard-throwing Joey Martinez settled down. He gave up a run in the second, but no more. Poly Prep stole four bases in the first inning plus, but Lions catcher Walker Harrison threw out three Blue Devils afterward. The Lions at-bats improved against Carbone as the afternoon wore on, but hit plenty of at ‘em balls at Poly Prep fielders and failed to generate a rally.
“The rest of the game [after the first two innings] is a better indication of what kind of team we are. We’re a good baseball team,” Berkeley Carroll coach Wally Paller said. “But the first two innings is the best indication of who they are. They run, they challenge a defense. Franco is one of the best players in the city and one of the most underrated players in the city.”
For now, Poly Prep has the upper hand in the rivalry. Hernandez and Friel can return to their Park Slope neighborhood with their heads held high.
“They didn’t want to hear it anymore,” Carbone said. “Today they got a little pride back.”