June 28, 2011 / Sports

Our All-Brooklyn baseball honors

Brooklyn is known as the basketball borough and for good reason with the PSAL boys champion calling BK home for the past six years.

But this spring, Brooklyn is also where baseball champions reside. Xaverian is again back atop the CHSAA after winning its seventh Class AA title, Poly Prep reigned in the NYSAISAA and Grand Street Campus reached the PSAL Class A semifinals.

So does Brooklyn have superior players or coaches? The answer is both.

The Clippers in the CHSAA were stacked with a deep and talented lineup led by Pittsburgh-bound Elvin Soto and a quality pitching and a fantastic coaching staff guided by Lou Piccola.

Behind ace Andrew Zapata, Poly Prep ended two years of heartbreak in the NYSAISAA final by topping Berkeley Carroll, 8-1, rallying for eight runs in the bottom of the sixth. Grand Street Campus rolled through Brooklyn A East before falling to runner-up Tottenville and three days later, star outfielder Williams Jerez was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the second round of the First-Year Player Draft.

Player of the Year

Andrew Zapada, Poly Prep

Plenty of superlatives can be used to describe Andrew Zapata’s sophomore season – brilliant, dominant, dynamic – but one adequately sums it up: winner.

The sophomore right-hander went 6-0 in seven starts. He tossed six complete games, four shutouts and allowed a remarkable three runs in 46-1/3 innings, good for a miniscule 0.45 earned run average. He blanked CHSAA champion Xaverian, PSAL champion George Washington and bested Berkeley Carroll, 8-1, in the NYSAISAA title game, washing away the Blue Devils’ disappointment in the finals the last two years. Poly Prep trailed by a run much of the way, but Zapata never blinked and the Bay Ridge school rallied for eight runs in the sixth inning.

“If he doesn’t keep it 1-0, [the sixth inning] doesn’t happen,” Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini said. “Andrew is a horse. It’s hard to say this about a sophomore, but he’s a big-game pitcher.”

Zapata still has two more years left before he leaves Poly Prep, two years to win two more NYSAISAA titles and build on the brilliance he established this season. Roventini talked about his work ethic making him so advanced, how he’s always lifting weights, throwing long tosses and running. But he doesn’t want to look too far ahead.

“This is something I’ll never forget,” Zapata said after the NYSAISAA crown. “I couldn’t have dreamed of a better season.”

Coach of the Year

Lou Piccola, Xaverian

Lou Piccola guided Xaverian to its first-ever title in 1990 against Christ the King and lost in the 1991 championship game vs. Monsignor McClancy. He didn’t think he’d be back as Clippers coach, content with his job as chairman of the physical education department at the Bay Ridge school and the Colts Neck (N.J.) hoops squad.

But when Dennis Canale departure came shortly after prosecutors filed papers naming former Xaverian freshman coach, Gerard Bruzzese, as a ringleader of a multimillion-dollar, mob-linked online sports-gambling operation, Piccola returned to the dugout after a 12-year hiatus.

Piccola had reservations about coming back. That is until Frank del George, who was the St. Francis College coach for 26 years until the program disbanded, agreed to join him. The duo ran their program like it was a college.

“It’s really special because I really believe we earned it,” Piccola said after the Clippers booked their ticket to the final. “We worked hard and we continue to work hard every day. Come to one of our practices, this is no joke here. ... This is by no accident.”

First Team

Jose Cuas, SS, Grand Street

One of the city’s top prospects for next year, Cuas had a breakout junior season. The five-tool shortstop with the slick glove and power bat hit a hard-to-fathom .620 with four home runs, 34 RBIs and 28 runs scored, leading Grand Street to the Brooklyn A East crown and first PSAL Class A semifinal berth in five years. His return ensures the Wolves will again be a city title contender.

Williams Jerez, OF, Grand Street

The only thing missing from Jerez’s senior year was a city championship. The 6-foot-4 center fielder won the PSAL’s Wingate Award for baseball, given to the sport’s top senior, he led Grand Street to the Brooklyn A West crown and PSAL Class A semifinals and was also taken in the second round (81st overall) to the Boston Red Sox, the highest New York City player taken in 15 years. His final statistics -- .692 batting average, six home runs, 38 RBIs and 34 runs scored – were straight out of a video game.

Philip Maldari, P/2B, Poly Prep

Zapata drew much of the attention, but Poly Prep’s first NYSAISAA championship in three years wouldn’t have been possible without the impressive sophomore right-hander, second baseman and third-place hitter. He went 6-0 on the mound and allowed just six earned runs in 38 innings pitched – good enough to be an ace anywhere else but Bay Ridge – while hitting .426 with eight doubles, 15 RBIs and scoring 16 times.

Kevin Martir, 1B, Xaverian

One of the top juniors in the city, Martir would have been the starting catcher if not for Elvin Soto. Instead, he was a vacuum at first base, scooping everything. At the plate, Martir was a terror, batting third for the Clippers. He had a single, was hit by a pitch and stole a base in a 4-0 win against Iona Prep to help send the Clippers into the title game.

Tommy Midolo, DH, Xaverian

Among the leaders on the Clippers with 36 RBIs, the Pace-bound Midolo was the model of consistency for Xaverian. He went 3-for-4 with a run scored in a 4-0 seeding round win against Monsignor Farrell at the College of Staten Island and had an RBI-single in the Clippers CHSAA championship-clinching win against All Hallows.

Antonio Nunez, SS, Xaverian

A prototypical leadoff batter, Nunez had a great eye and patience, was a solid hitter and had 14 stolen bases. Nunez walked three times and scored in a 6-4 win against division foe Archbishop Molloy on June 3. Defensively, the senior has what Piccola calls a “Major League arm.”

Rob Paller, OF, Berkeley

He comes from a tiny private school in Park Slope, which travels halfway across Brooklyn for home games and has a graduating senior class of 50, but that doesn’t mean Paller can’t play. In fact, the Columba University-bound son of Berkeley Carroll coach Walter Paller could fit in anywhere in the city on any of its elite programs and thrive. The sweet-swinging left-handed hitter capped a memorable four-year career with 32 runs scored, 11 RBIs and a .531 batting average, leading the Lions to an undefeated league season in the ACIS/PSAA Alliance and a finals appearance in the NYSAISAA tournament.

Anthony Pastrana, P, Xaverian

Pastrana started his career as a shortstop, but was a middle reliever last year and earned the win in the CHSAA Class AA championship game, allowing one earned run on four hits and striking out nine in 4-2/3 innings. The senior right-hander was 5-0, which included the first complete-game of his career in a three-hit shutout of Monsignor Farrell in the seeding round.

Elvin Soto, C, Xaverian

A switch-hitting catcher, Soto signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of Pittsburgh after initially verbally committing to the University of Arizona. One of the best defensive catchers in the city, Soto played for Team USA in the IBAF ‘AAA’ 18U Junior World Championship last summer. He had a pair of hits and two RBIs in the championship-clinching victory over All Hallows.

Michael Tejada, OF, Telecommunications

If there was a Comeback Player of the Year award, Tejada would win it going away. The power-hitting outfielder didn’t even play varsity last spring, but led Brooklyn A West with 19 RBIs while batting .375, drove in seven more during the postseason and helped the Yellow Jackets win the division title and reach the PSAL Class A quarterfinals after a slow start. The 6-foot-2 Tejada, who will play at Sullivan County Community College next year, also participated in the second annual Mayor’s Cup CHSAA-PSAL all-star game.

HONORABLE MENTION

SS Joe Abadia, Madison

P Matt Brigando, St. Edmund Prep

RF Victor Bautista, Xaverian

SS Joe Calabrese, Poly Prep

P Mike Fitzpatrick, Madison

1B Jason Galiano, Telecommunications

OF Will Garces, Bishop Ford

P Jonathan Gonzalez, Midwood

P Chris Lee, Telecommunications

C Ernesto Lopez, Grand Street Campus

P Jonathan Maldonado, Fort Hamilton

OF Basael McDonald, Grand Street Campus

C/P Joey Martinez, Berkeley Carroll

LF Bob McKenna, Xaverian

P Blaise Scerbo, Xaverian

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