Lehman Lions capture Bronx crown

Justin Diaz discovers how wood has changed the game, hitting what would have been a home run deep into the outfield; now just a long out. - Photo by Kevin Heckman

The Lehman Lions are the new kings of the baseball jungle. 

Over a three-day stretch from May 13-15, Lehman not only surprised Monroe 4-2, but was able to avenge a 4-2 loss to Kennedy, with a 2-1 win over the Knights, to win the Bronx A West and the fabled Bronx crown with a near perfect 15-1 record. 

“It was like a passing of the torch,” said Lehman pitcher Jose Pena, of his team’s biggest win over Monroe.  “In order to be the best in the Bronx, you have to beat Monroe and we haven’t been able to do that in seven years.  That was a big win.”

Day One: It has been Monroe’s mission to make sure no team went into the PSAL seeding undefeated. 

But Lehman would open the scoring.  Gabriel Pena would hit into a fielder’s choice to score a run and Jhosse Estrella (2-for-2) and Justin Diaz (3-for-3, 3 RBI’s) slammed two big doubles to put Lehman up 3-0.  Monroe struggled in its attempt at a comeback.

Down 3-1 in the 4th inning, Monroe would make its only rally attempt, as Lehman’s Jeffrey Adames (7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 10 K’s) hit Nelson Arroyo with a pitch and gave up a single to Raymond Molina to bring up the tying run  in Carlos Sierra.  The catcher responded by drilling a monster double into right field, scoring Arroyo, but the rally was killed as Molina was tagged out at third and the following batter flied out. 

Diaz added one more Lehman run off a sacrifice fly and Jeffrey Adames made 110 pitches to complete a hard fought victory. 

“It’s just an awesome feeling,” a proud pitcher said of the win.  “I’m so happy.  I always wanted to pitch against them.”

Lehman coach Adam Droz added,  “This is an extremely big win as far as motivation goes.  It could really set the tone.”

Day 2: However, with first place in the Bronx A West still on the line, a Kennedy home crowd came alive, as Bennie Fair (1-for-3, 1 R, 2 RBI’s, 1 Double), Curtis Lopes (1-for-2, 1 RBI), and Roberto Cabral (2-for-2, 1 RBI) helped lead a four-run rally in the bottom of the 4th inning.  It was all Kennedy would need. 

William Burgos (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R) held Lehman scoreless until the Lions were able to get on board with 2 runs in the top of the 6th inning, just falling short of a comeback. 

“We just weren’t hitting the ball,” Droz said of the loss. 

At the same time, at Monroe, the Eagles’ bats were coming alive with Sierra (2-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 3B), Hostos (2-for-3, 1 RBI), Nelson Arroyo (1-for-3, 1 3B) and Raymond Molina (2-for-2, 2 R) leading the way, as Monroe scored 8 runs over the first three innings, beating Clinton to clinch the Bronx A East. 

“We win on our pitching,” noted Turo.  “It’s been very good.  We just can’t miss any bunts.  The fundamentals win games.”

Day 3:  Monroe’s pitching was up to the challenge once more, as Jesus Vasquez allowed only 1 run on 2 hits and strike out 5 over 4 innings, while Juan Arroyo (2-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 2B), Sierra (1-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI), and Joseph Gerena (1-for-2, 1 RBI) figured out how to hit Wagas Ali (7 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 5 K’s) in an exciting 4-1 win over Clinton.

The victory put Monroe at 14-2 on the year.  With a 14-1 record on the day, Lehman was close to watching an amazing season end in an overall Bronx three-way tie with Kennedy and Monroe. 

Willy Castillo was hoping to make that a reality, pitching no-hit ball for Kennedy over the first 4 innings of play while his Lehman counterpart Jose Pena remained calm and held Kennedy scoreless over the first five innings. 

“He struggled this year,” said Droz, of Pena.  “We took him aside and let him know that we had confidence in him.  He just had to go out there and throw strikes.”

Randy Adames ended Kennedy’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single and advanced to second base on a balk and to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a pass ball with two outs.   

“That was the only mistake Willy made,” said Kennedy coach Alex Torres, of his pitcher.  “He didn’t cover the plate on the pass ball.   It’s something we’ve worked on, but will have to work on more.”

The error in judgment gave way to other mistakes as Roberto Cabral booted a ground ball by Justin Diaz that allowed the eventual winning run to score. 

Jeffrey Adames would come into the game on only one full day’s rest, and pick up the save for Pena, who is confident in his team’s chances.  “We’re looking to do some damage in the playoffs,” he said. 

Kennedy is also confident. 

“Everyone starts at 0-0 again,” noted senior Antonio Rivera.  “With everyone beating each other, there is no clear cut favorite, but we have the best defense in the City and I like our chances.”

His coach agrees.  “As long as we continue to play good ball with solid defense and strong pitching, I think we can beat anyone in the City,” said Torres.  “It’s really anyone’s game.”

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