With his steely poise and focus under pressure, penchant to finish what he starts and impressive 5-0 record, Andrew Zapata gives off a Roy Halladay-like vibe. It isn’t by accident – the Poly Prep sophomore fashions himself after the Philadelphia Phillies’ superstar right-hander.
“I look at him and he’s so composed, every at-bat he has the same exact mentality: Just get this guy out,” he said after his finest effort yet, a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over PSAL powerhouse and nationally ranked George Washington in Bay Ridge on May 10. “He gives up a hit, a home run he just gets back on the mound and gets ready for the next hitter. I think if you do that, not only will it give you great success, but limits the damage if you’re having an off day.”
That hasn’t been a problem for the Staten Island native much in his varsity career. After spending his freshman year watching and learning, he’s tossed five shutouts in six starts and racked up an obscenely-low 0.49 ERA in 42-1/3 innings pitched.
When told Zapata emulated Halladay, Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini smiled, as he often does in discussing his star pupil.
“He picked the right guy,” the 10th-year coach said.
Zapata was engaged in a throwback pitcher’s duel with Trojans righty Jariel Cedeno, the two matching zeroes until Poly Prep struck for the game’s lone run in the bottom of the sixth.
Joe Calabrese walked and came around to score on first baseman Nelson Rodriguez’s throwing error. Marley Randazzo dropped down a bunt that Cedeno trapped and threw late to first. Calabrese never stopped around second and scored as Rodriguez’s throw skipped down the left-field line.
“I love the way we play,” Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini said. “We compete, we scrap.”
The one run was more than enough for Zapata, the precocious 6-foot-1 underclassmen who struck out 10, walked one and allowed harmless singles to Osvaldo Pichardo and Elvis Perez in an 84-pitch gem. Pichardo singled softly to right field with two outs in the seventh, but Zapata fanned Alexis Torres on three pitches, getting the senior outfielder to wave at an 0-2 slider.
“He’s just got good stuff and no team has figured him out yet,” Poly catcher Marcus Hernandez said.
“Every inning I take as a different game, every at-bat is its own at-bat,” said Zapata. “You don’t think ahead, you don’t think in the past, you just go out there and do what you do.”
By no means does this win, or the other significant non-league victories, give the Blue Devils a sense of finality. They were heavy favorites to win the New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association title the last two years, only to fall short in the title game.
“There’s only more for us to lose,” Calabrese said. “We can’t get content with it. We have to become a better team every single day.”