Slowly, the Clinton baseball players trudged to the third-base line together, heads down, shoulders slumped, eyes watery.
The 21st-seeded Governors, used to playing deep into May, were going home.
They had no answer for 12th-seeded Francis Lewis ace Jonathan Bobea at the plate and committed too many errors in the field, undermining the effort of senior Ali Wagas. The result was a 3-1 loss to the Patriots in the opening round of the PSAL Class A playoffs in Queens.
“It’s real disappointing because we had great expectations,” said Wagas, who allowed two hits, one earned run and struck out two in six innings. “It still hasn’t kicked in. It’s gonna take a few days.”
Clinton managed just two hits – a booming triple by Wagas and an opposite-field RBI single by junior first baseman Harold Fich – against Bobea. He struck out 13 and walked just two.
“He’s a good pitcher, but he was throwing fastballs,” senior catcher Joseph Flores said. “We beat ourselves.”
Said Wagas: “All of our hitters were trying to pull the ball and he kept painting on the outside corner.”
Clinton coach Robert Miller credited Bobea for his ability to work both sides of the plate with his mid-to-high 80s fastball. But he was unhappy with the Governors’ approach. They swung at pitches out of the strike zone and took too many called third strikes – eight in all.
“Some of the things we worked on came back to haunt us,” he said. “We preach never let the umpire take the bat out of your hands.”
The early exit wasn’t a complete surprise. Clinton lost three of its last four to end the regular season, the reason the Governors started on the road. There were chemistry problems from the start of the season.
In April, three players were kicked off the team – “they were dead weight,” Flores said – for repeatedly breaking team rules. In an April 6 win over Gompers, Miller benched four starters – Fich, Alnardo and Raul Rodriguez and Shaniel Rivera – for disciplinary reasons. And Fich, the Governors’ power hitter, was suspended from school for five days – and missed several games – for his involvement in what Miller described as being “linked to gang activity.”
It affected the team’s play. Guys had to get accustomed to new positions, in the field and the batting order. All three facets of the game – pitching, fielding and hitting – never clicked at the same point.