In 24 hours, Poly Prep went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.
One day after the Blue Devils’ 56-game Ivy League winning streak was snapped by Fieldston, they knocked off PSAL powerhouse George Washington, 2-1, in dramatic fashion. Leftfielder James Friel gunned down pinch-runner Luis Toval, representing the tying run, to cap left-hander Richie Carbone’s complete-game four-hitter.
“It’s two different worlds,” Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini said. “Yesterday I was down here. Today, I’m up here.”
In a matchup of the city’s top shortstops – GW’s Mike Antonio, considered the five boroughs’ top prospect, and J.J. Franco, the son of former Mets closer John Franco – Carbone stole the show.
He retired Antonio, his teammate during the summer with the New York Nine, on three fly balls. He allowed just four hits – all of them singles – against third-ranked GW’s potent lineup, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out three, for his sixth complete game of the year.
“Richie stole the show,” Roventini said. “Against an offense like that and a team like that, all you can do is tip your hat.”
Carbone also doubled in the fifth and drove in Poly Prep’s first run in the sixth with a run-scoring groundout. Franco came around to score on second baseman Jordin Rodriguez’s throwing error on the play, a significant run considering the Trojans’ rally in the seventh. After Carbone retired the first two batters in the seventh, Nelson Rodriguez and Jordan Polanco singled. Alomar Guzman reached on second baseman E.J. Martinez’s throwing error, setting up the final play’s theatrics.
Erick Roman rifled the first pitch he saw from Carbone toward third bace. The shot took a bad hop, over the shoulder of third baseman Joe Calabrese. Carbone figured the game was tied, since he has known the speedy Toval for several years, and figured Friel wouldn’t even make a throw. But the leftfielder, who transferred from Regis after his junior year, charged the ball, which took a favorable high hop.
He threw a frozen rope to catcher Marcus Hernandez, who blocked the plate and tagged out Toval.
“I don’t know what to say besides laugh,” Friel said. “I almost smiled to myself. This is all we wait for in the outfield, the chance to throw someone out to end the game. I got behind the ball and made a nice throw.”
In 10 league games – all victories — the Trojans have scored eight runs on seven occasions. Yet, the fearsome lineup has come up small in non-league showdowns with James Monroe, Tottenville and now Poly Prep. Antonio faulted his team for extending the strike zone against Carbone and not working the count.
“We just kept on doing the same mistakes, going after the same pitch,” he said. “We knew what was coming, we just kept getting ourselves out. We have to make that adjustment.”
The win was significant to Poly Prep (14-3) for two reasons: It bounced back from a devastating defeat and also proved itself against arguably the city’s most talented club. When asked which game he’d rather have, Roventini smiled and said “both.” Ironically, the loss to Fieldston served as a wakeup to the Blue Devils, who felt they overlooked the Eagles. Prior to first pitch, Roventini challenged his team to respond. He said they got “punched in the face” by Fieldston.
“We punched back,” Friel said.
Carbone said when he first got to the Bay Ridge school, the Blue Devils never even scheduled such opponents. Now, they have beaten George Washington, Staten Island powers Tottenville and McKee/Staten Island Tech, and split two games with Catholic dynamo Xaverian.
“It’s such a big confidence builder, knowing what we are capable of,” Franco said. “Being a private school, we go under the radar a little bit. But us and the other teams in the Ivy League, and other private schools in general, are starting to make a name for ourselves.”