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Big−time titles remain elusive, but BK squads shine

Brooklyn didn’t bring home any city championships, but that doesn’t mean it was a disappointing season by any means. A year after reaching the PSAL Class A final, Madison made the semifinals with an almost completely new club. Xaverian failed to repeat as CHSAA Class A intersectional champs, but then again, nobody has done that in 33 years. The Clippers did take home another Brooklyn⁄Queens ‘A’ division title.

As for the rest of the borough, Bishop Ford continued to make positive strides under coach Mike Hanrahan, beating Xaverian once and reaching the postseason. Telecommunications, led by stellar shortstop Elddy Fernandez and dynamic catcher Jason Galeano, won Brooklyn A West before bowing out in the quarterfinals to John F. Kennedy.

While stars such as Xaverian ace Anthony Hajjar, Fernandez and Bishop Ford right−hander Kasciem Graham depart, the future is bright for others. Madison will return its entire lineup and Telecomm has Galeano and fellow sophomore, southpaw Daniel Perri, to lead them back into contention.

As they like to say around here, Wait ‘til next year.

BROOKLYN

BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

P Anthony Hajjar, Xaverian

Dennis Canale has been blessed with tremendous talent during his 11 years as coach at Xaverian, but when the Clippers coach said Anthony Hajjar was “the best player I’ve ever coached at Xaverian,” that’s not hyperbole. And considering the talent that he’s coached at the perennial powerhouse, that statement proves how important Hajjar was.

The Fairfield−bound right−hander was Xaverian’s ace, tossing gem after gem during the season. When he wasn’t on the mound, Hajjar was playing first base and was always the team’s No. 3 hitter, the Clippers most consistent arm and bat.

Hajjar was on the mound last year, tossing a complete−game four−hit gem and driving in four runs as Xaverian defeated Moore Catholic to win the 2008 CHSAA Class A intersectional title. The Clippers failed to become the first team in 33 years to repeat as champions, but it wasn’t because Hajjar failed to do his job.

Whenever Canale gave him the ball, Hajjar delivered. He took a no−hitter into the seventh inning and belted a three−run home run in a 7−0 win against Archbishop Molloy, tossed a three−hitter and struck out nine in a 6−2 win against Bishop Ford that clinched the Brooklyn⁄Queens ‘A’ division title for the Clippers.

Even in a season−ending 4−3 loss to eventual champion Fordham Prep, Hajjar was 2−for−3 with a double and an RBI. He was hit by a pitch in the seventh and was the tying run at third base when the season unceremoniously ended.

“There was never quit in this team all year,” Hajjar said after the game. “We’ve come through in so many clutch situations, down so many runs that all we did was believe.”

With Hajjar in the lineup, that was an easy thing to do.

BROOKLYN BASEBALL COACH OF THE YEAR

Vinny Caiazza,

Madison

While Madison failed to return to the PSAL Class A championship game, Caiazza did an even better job this spring. He inherited an almost entirely new team – four CHSAA transfers and four freshmen. He molded them through tough times, leading the Knights to another Brooklyn A East crown and consecutive upsets of perennial powers Grand St. Campus and Tottenville in back−to−back playoff rounds.

Madison started the year full of uncertainly, its roster littered with inexperience. By the end, they were tough, gritty and hard−nosed, the embodiment of their coach. Caiazza pushed the right buttons. He booted Daniel Perez, one of the transfers, from the team after repeatedly breaking team rules early on, was strict when necessary, but also offered encouragement during tough times for his youngest players.

Even in the final game of the year, a 5−2 loss to Monroe in the semifinals, the Knights nearly staged a miraculous seventh−inning comeback, striking for two runs off ace Abel Guerrero. If not for Eagles centerfielder Melvin Garcia’s catch of a Michael Taverna line drive, the result may have been different.

“It says a lot about the kids,” Caiazza said then. “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.”

ALL−BROOKLYN FIRST TEAM

3B Robbie Duran,

Xaverian

Duran batted cleanup was a big reason why the Clippers captured the Brooklyn⁄Queens ‘A’ division title and was the top−seeded team in the CHSAA Class A intersectional playoffs. The usually sure−handed third baseman had a costly error in a 4−3 loss to the eventual champions, Fordham Prep, but he nearly made up by reaching on an error in the seventh inning and, perhaps more impressively, he stuck around to face the music when it was all said and done. Duran will play for powerhouse Miami−Dade College in Florida next season.

SS Elddy Fernandez, Telecommunications

It will be extremely difficult to replace Fernandez, Telecomm’s leadoff hitter and sterling shortstop. A four−year starter, he was the glue that kept the Yellow Jackets together in trying times. His numbers – .453 batting average, 17 stolen bases, 16 RBIs, 37 runs scored – were pretty impressive, too. He had the game−winning hit in a 2−1 come−from−behind victory over Francis Lewis in the second round of the PSAL Class A playoffs. “He’s the guy I definitely wanted up there,” Telecomm coach Ed D’Alessio said afterwards.

SS JJ Franco,

Poly Prep

His father may be former New York Mets closer John Franco, but JJ is carving out his own niche in the sport. He is a standout shortstop, the Poly Prep ace and one of the top leadoff men in the entire city. The Blue Devils failed to three−peat as Ivy League champions, but it was no fault of Franco’s. He pitched them into the final, tossing a two−hit shutout in a 1−0 victory over Rye Country Day School. The rest of the Ivy’s will be hard−pressed to deny him next year. Franco gets better every day. “He’s the kind of kid that makes things happen,” Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini said. “He’s always in the middle of rallies.”

C Jason Galeano,

Telecommunications

The only sophomore on our All−Brooklyn first team, Galeano is an obvious choice. He is adept at handling a pitching staff – Telecomm allowed three runs or more just three times and gave up just four to offensive power Kennedy in a PSAL Class A quarterfinal setback – and is already one of the best power bats in the PSAL. The Yellow Jackets are in good hands with the no−nonsense Galeano, who hit .484 with 24 RBIs, 27 runs scored and six doubles, behind the plate.

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