Bronx teams fall short

Strong hitting from players like Mauricio Matos (above), who recently attended a pre-draft camp for the Kansas City Royals, helped complement the discovery of new pitching ace Wagas Ali, and lead the Clinton Governors to a shocking semifinal berth in the PSAL A Division playoffs. - Photo by Walter Pofeldt

 It looks like the PSAL Varsity Baseball A Division Championship will not be coming back to the Bronx after all. 

Both Gompers and Clinton lost playoff match ups this weekend at the College of Staten Island, leaving George Washington with an opportunity to win its first PSAL title since 1997 on June 6, when they travel to Shea Stadium to take on James Madison. 

It was an amazing season for all Bronx schools involved in the playoffs, as last year’s favorites, the Monroe Eagles, were eliminated in the second round by Gompers, clearing the field for a new Bronx champion.  Lehman, the #3 seed, was also eliminated in a tough 5-2 loss to George Washington in the third round. 

But what ended up being a complete shock was the quality of play put forth by both Gompers and Clinton. 

Gompers (11-5) not only knocked off Monroe, but saw ace pitcher Dominique Parra throw two no-hitters; one in a 3-0 win over New Utrecht in Round 1, and the other, a 7-0 victory over Norman Thomas that put the Panthers in the semifinals. 

As the #13 seed, no one expected Gompers to make it as far, but they did, even evening the series up at one apiece against Madison with a 3-2 victory by Parra on Saturday, May 31, after falling to the Knights 9-7 one day prior. 

In the rubber match, the Panthers fell short of their dream when James Wong delivered a two-RBI double in a 4-run 5th inning, as senior Jonathan Farina shut Gompers down, allowing just 7 hits and striking out 9 over 7 innings of work. 

Madison would win 7-1.  Gompers was eliminated, but walked away  feeling like champions, having advanced to the semifinals for the first time. 

“We made history this year,” Gompers coach Louis Figueroa told the PSAL.  “To accomplish what we did in our fourth year in the A Division is simply amazing.  We worked hard, we stuck together and we pulled some upsets along the way.”

The same can be said for the #18th seeded Clinton Governors. 

“I came into the season with a young team,” said coach Robert Miller.  “I would have been happy just to make the playoffs.”

But a 4-3 loss to Lehman on April 11, served as a turning point, as Clinton went on to win six regular season games in a row to get back on track in time for the playoffs. 

“Against Lehman, we found our new ace in Wagas Ali,” said Miller.  “He came up from JV and I had designs to use him as a hitter, but he kept telling me he could pitch, too.  He proved that against Lehman, and then we started hitting.  The two were a formidable combination.”

Clinton (10-6) would make the playoffs as Miller had hoped.  But no one expected a 10-8 extra inning win over Tottenville. 

“We’ve had no luck with Tottenville over the years,” said Miller.  “Beating them was a win for the ages.  A lot of teams were grateful that we knocked off last year’s champions.  To me, that was like winning a championship.”

Clinton would then advance past HS of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, but just when they thought they could win the whole thing, they hit a roadblock in the form of George, Washington, losing 2-1 and 14-8 in the best-of-three-game series. 

“George Washington is a solid team,”  said Miller.  “They just overpowered us with their lineup.  But I’m not disappointed.  I never expected us to go as far as we did.  Call it the year of the wood bat, or the year of the upset; either way, I think this was a pretty successful season.”

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