Madison pitching rocked in Game 3 defeat to Lehman

Pitching and defense. It was the James Madison baseball team’s strength. Those basic winning tenets were nowhere to be found over the weekend.

Over the weekend, the Knights gave up a staggering 32 runs – 12 more than the 20 runs yielded in 16 league games and three playoff contests, all of them victories.

“I wouldn’t have believed it,” Madison coach Vinny Caiazza said.

As a result, the foruth-seeded Knights were eliminated from postseason play, defeated by No. 8 Lehman, 2-1, in the best-of-three semifinal playoff series. Sunday, the Lions scored early and often, pounding out 12 hits — six for extra bases — in a 10-6 victory at the College of Staten Island.

The Bronx squad will meet No. 3 Tottenville in next Friday’s title game at MCU Park in Coney Island. Madison, meanwhile, is going home, having failed to reach the final for the fifth time in its last six trips to the final four. Last year, the Knights also fell in this round.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get to the final step,” Caiazza said. “I thought we would before the weekend. But I’m not disappointed in the overall season. We went 20-2.”

Caiazza gave the ball to junior Joe Abadia, a transfer from Canarsie that has excelled atop the batting order. Abadia was solid, but not spectacular, touched up for four runs in four innings. A pitcher when he was at Canarsie, Abadia saw limited time on the mound this year for Madison — just three innings against PSAL foes in fact.

“It’s a tough spot to put him in,” Caiazza freely admitted.

The game quickly got out of hand in the fifth. Southpaw Zach Pollack failed to register an out against Lehman’s two left-handed sluggers Tyler Gurman and Andy Ramos. Mike Fitzpatrick, the star of Saturday’s thrilling victory, threw kerosene into the fire, walking in a run, allowing a two-run double to Felix Fernandez, and a run-scoring single to Laurence Marsach.

Madison rallied for two runs in the home fifth and three more in the sixth, but by then it was too late. The Knights, after all, went undefeated in Brooklyn A West – for the second time in three years – because of effective starting pitching. That was missing the entire weekend. Even ace Eddie Lenahan failed to get through the fourth.

“We pitched the three worst games of the entire season,” Caiazza said. “We were behind every hitter.”

Caiazza credited Lehman’s patience and ability to lay off breaking balls and changeups out of the strike zone for that. The Lions, for that reason, had plenty of 3-1 counts, where they could sit on fastballs. And they hardly missed ones in the middle of the plate.

“We’ve been successful, but you also need that dominant hitter or pitcher in the semifinals,” Caiazza said. “Eddie is great, but he has to rely on his defense and throwing strikes, which he didn’t really do.”

It was a sad ending for seniors like Lenahan and center fielder Joe Calascione (two hits, two RBIs), who will both play at the College of Staten Island next year, in addition to closer Joe Ecock, left fielder John Yuksekol, third baseman Matt Maher and catcher Chris Mann. In two years, they overachieved, leading Madison to consecutive division titles and handful of thrilling playoff victories.

“I just told my kids, you start the season with 80 teams in the league,” he added. “You finish in the final four three years in a row. Do I want to be like Jim Boeheim? No. But he won a championship. Eventually it will come.”

More from Around New York