Chris Hernandez hit a homerun in his first at-bat of the season. Wilman Polanco drove in a run despite being quick-pitched and still going through his warm-up routine.
And those were just two quirky examples of John F. Kennedy’s offensive coming out party.
The Knights erupted for 15 hits, five for extra bases, en route to a 14-10 victory over rival Clinton in a Bronx crossover game on a rainy Friday afternoon.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well, we just didn’t have a lot of luck with balls dropping in,” Kennedy coach Alex Torres said.
Everything fell for their way against the Governors. Kennedy scored six runs in a line drive-filled third inning, when every ball seemed to find a gap or the base of the wall. Clinton starter Shaniel Rivera was roughed up for five hits and eight runs altogether before he exited after 2 2/3 innings pitched.
His replacement, Luis Minier, was bombarded for four more runs in the fifth after Clinton had strung together a big inning of its own, a five-run frame in the fifth, and two in the sixth. Six different players drove in runs. Each starter recorded at least one hit and scored a run.
Center fielder Pedro Taveras doubled twice and drove in three runs, shortstop Frankcelis Estevez and second baseman Jonathan Nevarez each had two RBIs and Polanco and DH Victor Arias had two hits and scored twice.
Rivera, who was brilliant just a week ago in defeating Jane Addams, 6-2, with a complete-game four-hitter, could do little with the Knights’ deep lineup. Kennedy stayed off his breaking ball in the dirt, worked deep counts and made him pay for mistakes, mostly jumping on his fastball.
Kennedy’s sixth straight league win wasn’t without anxiety. Clinton, who lost to its Bronx rivals, 2-1, last year – “It’s never a dull game between us,” assistant coach Felix Villalon said – kept on coming, knocking out ace Bennie Fair in the fifth after Joseph Flores, Alnardo Rodriguez and Harold Fich put together consecutive run-scoring doubles.
In the bottom half of the inning, however, Hernandez, who had come on for Fair on the mound, quelling the uprising, took Minier deep, well over the wall for a solo shot to left field. He immediately took off, unaware it was a home run until passing first base.
“I didn’t even feel the ball,” he said, still smiling 30 minutes afterwards. “That’s what you call the perfect swing.”
Said Torres: “He might be DH’ing soon.”
The win puts Kennedy in the driver’s seat in Bronx A West, arguably the best division in the city. They lead Lehman, who the Knights have swept the season series from, by two games in the loss column with four to play, two against Gompers and two against cellar dweller Evander Childs. Kennedy’s only league loss was a 6-1 setback to undefeated and Bronx A East leading Monroe, back on April 7.
JFK is poised to garner a high seed in the city playoffs, meaning home field advantage for at least the first two rounds.
Still, Kennedy is overlooked. They are rarely mentioned as a challenger for the city crown, passed over for such perennial powers as George Washington, Monroe and Tottenville, despite an abundance of pitching and an improving lineup. That suits them just fine, for now.