All-Bronx baseball honors

Ace Sal Lisanti led Fordham Prep to its first city crown since 1992 and is thus our Bronx Baseball Player of the Year. Photos by Baiju Thakkar/Five Boro Sports

It was a special spring in the Bronx, as Fordham Prep in the CHSAA and Monroe in the PSAL made deep playoff runs.

The Rams enjoyed a spectacular journey to their first CHSAA Class A intersectional title since 1992, winning seven elimination games, including five in a row. Fordham Prep boasted the deepest pitching staff in the CHSAA and had some timely hitting along the way.

Mount St. Michael was a few breaks away from winning the Bronx/Westchester ‘A’ division, beating eventual champion Stepinac twice during the regular season. And St. Ray’s swept both regular-season games from Bronx/Manhattan ‘A’ division champion Xavier, riding the arm of junior right-hander Ricky Eusebio.

In the PSAL, Monroe lost consecutive division games – to Lehman and Clinton – for the first time in a decade, yet still won highly competitive Bronx A East and returned to the city final, knocking off city powers Lehman, defending champion George Washington and last year’s runner-up Madison in the process.

John F. Kennedy reigned in Bronx A West and made the semifinals. Lehman won the prestigious Monroe Holiday Baseball Tournament before falling to the Eagles in the second round and Clinton had a rare down year, upended in the opening round by Francis Lewis ace Jonathan Bobea.

Bronx Player Of The Year

P Sal Lisanti, Fordham Prep

He wasn’t on the field when the Rams recorded the final out to clinch their first CHSAA Class A intersectional title since 1992, but no one was more instrumental to Fordham Prep’s championship than Lisanti.

The senior right-hander tossed a pair of complete-game shutouts in the playoffs, including a three-hit gem in a 1-0 win against Monsignor Farrell in the semifinal round. He also came out of the bullpen to save two other playoff games.

“He’s like a model for our other pitchers,” Fordham Prep coach Steve Pettus said. “We actually have them look at him. He gets the ball, right back on the rubber, wants the pitch. He’s a bulldog. Once you get him into the rhythm, its tough to break.”

Lisanti was tough to beat during the regular season, going 6-1 with a 1.91 earned run average. He will play at Bryant University next year.

“You never want to slow him down,” Fordham Prep catcher Jesus Jaile said after the semifinal win. “Just give him the ball. … He had confidence in all his pitches so it worked out well.”

Bronx Coach Of The Year

Steve Pettus, Fordham Prep

After falling to Archbishop Stepinac in the double-elimination quarterfinal round of the CHSAA Class A playoffs, the Rams’ championship dreams appeared to have taken a hit. Fordham Prep needed to win five consecutive games, but Pettus had his team focus on each game, winning one inning at a time.

“We can’t say that we have to beat Stepinac two games because we have to play Farrell first and we have to play them seven innings and win every inning,” leftfielder Mike Maschi said after the Rams beat top-seeded Xaverian. “That’s our philosophy.”

That philosophy, and a belief that Fordham Prep could compete for a CHSAA Class A intersectional title, was instilled in the team by Pettus back in March.

“We can probably field an entire team of seniors,” Pettus said at the time. “They’ve had some experience, tasted success. We’re expecting to do very well this year.”

And when it was over, and the Rams were mobbing each other on the field at St. John’s University’s Kaiser Stadium, Pettus wasn’t surprised that Fordham Prep captured its first title since 1992.

“You know when you have a special class,” Pettus said. “We’ve been looking to this year, we had it earmarked. We came out in the first game against Regis and we said, ‘This is the start of our championship run.’”

All-Bronx First Team

CF Hans Arias, St. Raymond’s: The junior centerfielder batted near the top of the order all season and hit for both power and average, leading the Ravens in most offensive categories. He also had a gun for an arm and was solid defensively, able to cover a ton of ground in the outfield. Arias was a big reason why St. Raymond’s was in contention for the Bronx/Manhattan ‘A’ division title until the final week of the regular season.

P Jimmy Bermudez, Jane Addams: So much for the move up to the ‘A’ league bothering Bermudez in the least. The talented right-hander was fla- out unhittable, going 4-2 with a microscopic 0.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched. He mixed a high 80s fastball with an improving breaking ball, helping the Jaguars compete in the toughest borough in the city.

P Tommy Cardona, Mount St. Michael: The hard-throwing right-hander was 4-4 with a 2.70 ERA, 70 strikeouts and a 3.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also batted cleanup for the Mount, playing first base when not on the mound, and hit close to .300. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Cardona, whose fastball has been clocked in the low 90s and who can also throw a curveball and a change-up for strikes, will play at New York Institute of Technology next year.

2B/P Henry Cartagena, James Monroe: He hit third, played a spectacular second base, started games on the mound and closed out Monroe’s final two playoff wins. Basically, Cartagena did whatever the Eagles needed. He drove in 21 runs, scored 19 times and even stole nine bases. On the mound, the senior was 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA three saves, including the final three outs of a 2-1, second-round victory over rival Lehman when he got out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation. “He’s a clutch pitcher,” teammate Elias Todman said. Then there were Cartagena’s contributions that didn’t appear in the box score – his leadership skills and maturity that rubbed off on his teammates.

C Sammy Dominguez, John F. Kennedy: Since he walked through the school’s doors as a pudgy freshman, Dominguez has been one of the Bronx’s best behind the plate, offensively and defensively. This year, he added to his legacy by growing up before our eyes. He was the Knights’ unquestioned leader, their cleanup hitter and shutdown closer. His numbers – .451 average, 24 RBIs, three home runs and 20 runs scored – were impressive, and he was seldom pitched to in big spots. If not for Dominguez, there is no way Kennedy wins Bronx A West, arguably the best division in the city, and makes it to the PSAL Class A semifinals. With him back in the fold, in addition to talented sophomores Pedro Taveras (centerfield) and Isael Lagares (third base), the sky is the limit for Al Torres’ club.

P Ricky Eusebio, St. Raymond’s: The junior right-hander was one of the borough’s best on the mound, going 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA and twice beating eventual Bronx/Manhattan ‘A’ division winner Xavier. His second win against the Knights came on three days rest as he went the distance, throwing 108 pitches and allowed two unearned runs on six hits, striking out three with one walk.

“Once again my kid came through on the mound,” longtime St. Raymond’s coach Ron Patnosh said after the game. “We’ve been counting on him all year. It’s no surprise.”

Eusebio also took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of the decisive third game of a third round series against Fordham Prep before giving up a three-run home run to Mike Maschi in a 4-2 loss.

C Joseph Gerena, James Monroe: Gerena came out of nowhere to become the Eagles’ top run producer and cleanup hitter. A seldom-used backup a season ago, he was fifth in the city with 25 regular-season RBIs this spring, bashed three home runs and hit .468. He also excelled defensively behind the plate, adeptly handling Monroe’s talented pitching staff and improving his throwing. “He did everything I asked him to do,” Monroe coach Mike Turo said.

C Jesus Jaile, Fordham Prep: While the pitchers received much of the attention during the Rams’ remarkable championship run, quietly the senior catcher was instrumental in Fordham Prep’s first championship in 17 years. “In terms of offense, Jesus has been our cleanup hitter all year long, led the team in RBIs, but defensively he’s the leader of our team,” Pettus said. “He calls a great game and, as you saw in the championship game, threw out a runner trying to steal and advance. He’s just a born leader.” The New Jersey Institute of Technology-bound catcher was great at the plate in the biggest games, driving in the lone run in a 1-0 win against Farrell in the semifinal round and was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, three walks and reached on an error in eight at-bats in a pair of championship round wins against Stepinac.

SS Melvin Mercedes, DeWitt Clinton: Smooth in the field and potent at the plate, Mercedes is arguably the best position player in the city as an underclassman. On a veteran club, he earned his spot. He can run, hit and hit for power. He’s basically a line drive waiting to happen, batting .412, scoring 20 runs, stealing 21 bases and plating 12. His potential is limitless.

P Nick Santiago, Cardinal Hayes: He didn’t throw especially hard and his off-speed stuff didn’t break anybody’s ankles, but Santiago was effective and he won, leading Hayes into the best-of-three, third round of the CHSAA Class A intersectional playoffs. “If you put a bomb underneath him I don’t think it would rattle him that much,” Hayes coach Curt Scheibe said. “He’s got a lot of composure.” The lumbering left-hander’s biggest win came against Iona Prep, when he outdueled Gaels ace Pete Ladis in the second round. “He’s a great pitcher, kept throwing strikes, never gave up, never put his head down after we were down by two runs,” Hayes second baseman Andre Oquendo said after the game. “He was just waiting for that inning, waiting for us to get that lead for him so he can shut the door.”

All-Bronx Honorable Mention

P Wagas Ali, DeWitt Clinton

P/SS Jose Cruz, Walton

SS Frank Estevez, John F. Kennedy

SS Jack Giannini, Fordham Prep

SS Alex German, Jane Addams

P Abel Guerrero, Monroe

CF T.J. Mangan, Fordham Prep

P Laurence Marsach, Lehman

CF Steven Marquez, Morris

2B Mike Maschi, Fordham Prep

3B/P George Perrotta, Fordham Prep

RF Manny Rivera, St. Ray’s

P Steven Rivera, Mount St. Michael

C Joe Tellez, St. Raymond’s

SS Mark Ycaza, Hayes

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