Grand Street Campus had beaten Catholic school powerhouse Xaverian, PSAL Brooklyn dynamo James Madison and Bronx mainstay John F. Kennedy. Undefeated in Queens A West, it played defending CHSAA champion Fordham Prep even and lost by a run to last year’s PSAL titlist Norman Thomas.
Yet, the Wolves weren’t among the teams many talked about in discussing the area’s best.
“The rankings motivated us,” Grand Street coach Melvin Martinez said. “For the last two days, I kept telling the kids we’re not even in the PSAL top 10.”
They certainly deserve to be after April 28’s dramatic, come-from-behind victory in a matchup of division leaders. Grand Street rallied for six runs in the home sixth inning, all of them charged to Francis Lewis ace Jonathan Bobea, for an impressive 7-2 victory in Williamsburg.
Jose Zuniga picked up the win, throwing an economical 100 pitches in seven splendid innings of work. He fanned 12, allowed just two hits – a leadoff double to Cesar Murillas in the fourth and an RBI single to Crisandry Javier late in the frame – and beat Bobea for the second straight year. After failing to take advantage of plenty of scoring opportunities against the hard-throwing Bobea across the first five innings, the Wolves (7-0) capitalized in the sixth.
Centerfielder Williams Jerez started the rally with an infield single up the middle. Zuniga reached on shortstop David Torres’ fielding error. After leftfielder Mario Sanchez whiffed on an outside fastball and catcher Irving Galindez worked out a walk, pinch-hitter Angelo Nunez plated Jerez with a fielder’s choice. Zuniga scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, and Galindez came around to score on second baseman Donovan Richardson’s chopper back to the mound.
“We battled, we didn’t give up,” Zuniga said. “Like my coach always says, great teams find ways to win, and we found it in the bottom of the sixth.”
It was a bang-bang play at the plate, but catcher Kennedy Tavarez was unable to squeeze Bobea’s high throw, Lewis’ second error of the inning. Lewis coach Ian Millman vehemently protested the call, claiming Martinez left the third-base coach’s box to assist the runner who he felt missed the plate initially, and was eventually tossed.
Home plate umpire Roger Frontera hesitated, but said Galindez touched home on his first attempt. Millman also said Tavarez, his catcher, heard him tell Galindez to touch the plate.
“He ran all the way down the line and instructed his player to touch the plate,” Millman said. “The umpire didn’t raise his hand or make a call until Melvin was in his line of sight giving instruction and then he made a call.”
Countered Frontera: “[Martinez] did not impede the play or talk to anybody.”
When play resumed, right fielder Basael McDonald drilled a booming two-run triple off Javier’s glove in left-center, and shortstop Jose Cuas added an RBI for the final margin.
“He comes hard, we go harder,” McDonald said. “It was pretty big since they had their best pitcher Bobea a lot of people talk about.”
The victory should have people talking about Grand Street. Against the draftable Bobea, who entered with a 0.00 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched, they pounded out seven hits, three for extra bases, drew two walks, and had baserunners in all six of his innings. The Wolves have a different makeup than the team that was upset in the second round by Madison last year.
“They did a good job up and down their lineup putting the ball in play,” Millman said after his club fell into a first place tie with Cardozo in Queens A East at 6-1. “They looked comfortable in there, that’s the big thing. They played with confidence, they hit with confidence, they did a good job against a good pitcher.”
They are extremely young – sophomores Cuas, Richardson, first baseman Jason Aponte and third baseman Ernesto Lopez start in the infield – and freshmen Jerez and McDonald also play every day in the outfield. But the neophytes possess tools last year’s seniors lacked. The gifted Cuas, for instance, rifled one of Bobea’s trademark blazing fastballs for a triple to right-center, and Galindez, a junior, wacked a hanging curve off the wall in left.
“I thank our JV program for being excellent,” Martinez said. “They’re playing like juniors and seniors. We’re gonna be powerful for the next two to three years. … I want people to know when they think about Brooklyn and Queens, Grand Street Campus should be at the top of the list. We’re gonna keep beating everybody until we prove that point.”