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Young Madison takes heart in semis loss to Monroe

Vinny Caiazza was drained, emotionally and physically. He felt worn out. After his Madison baseball team was swept in its best-of-three, semifinal series against Monroe, falling 5-2 Sunday afternoon at KeySpan Park in Coney Island, it ended a long season, that although memorable was arduous.

Yet, he had this to say hours after it had concluded: “I’d like to play a game tomorrow. I’d like to see (next) season start tomorrow.”

Who could blame him?

Less than 24 hours after the Knights were blown out by Monroe, 14-4, they were back at it again, hanging tough for six innings, then nearly staging a miraculous rally in the seventh. Junior Eddie Lenahan was typically tough. The play behind him, shoddy the day before, was stellar. If not for the three tack-on runs the Eagles (19-2) put up in the top of the seventh, the two teams may be preparing for Game 3.

“We never gave up during the whole playoffs,” Caiazza said proudly. “We weren’t going to start now.”  

In the bottom of the frame, Madison (16-5) plated two runs and had the tying run on first and the go-ahead run at the plate when Henry Cartagena whiffed Anthony Frangello for the final out.

Frangello reacted by angrily slamming his bat and helmet to the ground and flopping on the turf, proof that Madison never stopped believing until the final strike to its season was delivered. Lenahan comforted his classmate, telling him they have one more season together to get it right.

Not just them, either. The entire lineup Caiazza fielded returns; ditto with his top three pitchers: Lenahan, the left-handed Frangello and closer Matt Ecock.

At the season’s outset, Caiazza wasn’t sure what to expect coming off his club’s run to the city final. He lost virtually every important contributor, only returning starter outfielder Joseph Hecker. Catholic school transfers Frangello, Ecock and centerfielder Joe Calascione arrived to form a new nucleus that included freshmen Joe Cali, Mike Fitzpatrick and Robert Salo.

Madison had its bumps along the way, yet won Brooklyn A East and upset No. 7 Grand Street Campus and No. 2 Tottenville in the playoffs. The Knights nearly forced heavily favored Monroe to a penultimate third game.

“It says a lot about the kids,” Caiazza said. “Even the umpires were telling me they were impressed by the young kids. I could put my guys against anybody in the city. We proved it today.”

Said Lenahan: “We did more than anybody expected. Nobody expected us to get here. But we got here and hopefully we’ll be back.”

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