No matter whom you talk to from the Poly Prep baseball team, his assessment is the same: this is a club based on pitching — deep, talented pitching.
The Blue Devils line up features arguably the city’s best hurler in righty ace Andrew Zapata. The senior, who can throw in the low 90s, is committed to the University of Connecticut. He’s lost just once in his high school career and pitched a complete game, one-hitter to lead the Blue Devils to the private school state title last year.
Right behind him is righty Phil Maldari, a control pitcher, and hard throwing lefty Morgan Gray. Each has spent two years on the mound for Poly tossing big innings. Weber Lawrence is expected to round out the rotation.
“We’ve had the [Ivy League’s] best pitching rotation,” Gray said. “We have so much depth.”
The plan is for them to help the Bay Ridge school make history. The Blue Devils squad has won two straight private school state titles and is the favorite for a third to go along with a seventh division crown. This would be the first Poly team to accomplish that feat.
“Three in a row would really be something special, especially since it’s never been done before,” Zapata said.
To do so, Poly will rely on a roster made up of a balance of youth and experience. Maldari, the team’s top hitter, bats third and plays third base, Morgan hits second and plays centerfield, and Zapata goes to left field when he’s not pitching. Catcher Rob Calabrese bats cleanup and is adept at controlling base runners from behind the plate. Christian Pellegrino moves from designated hitter to first base to form a potent middle of the order made up of line drive and gap hitters.
“We have a little power,” Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini said. “Our top and our bottom we run well and put the ball in play and do little things well.”
The biggest additions are also the team’s youngest. Roventini raved about freshman shortstop and leadoff hitter Anthony Prato. He described him as a consistent spark plug at the top of the order that brings patience and base stealing speed. Eighth grader Nick Storz, who will see time as designated hitter and in right field, has already shown plenty of power.
“The kid is going to be filthy [good] when he grows up,” Gray said of Prato. “He’s already pretty gross to begin with now. He’s going to be very, very good.”
Poly has a chance to be exceptionally good as well. It has taken pride over the years in being one of the city’s top programs. The players want to win another state crown, but it’s their will to win — especially against other top city opponents — that sets them apart.
“We want to be the best,” Maldari said. “What Roventini talks about is being the best, being No. 1. We want to be on top.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk