In February, Mac Psachie sat his players down and broke the bad news. The Riverdale/Kingsbridge baseball team was not moving up to the ‘A’ league like division rivals Morris and Jane Addams and Bayard Rustin, the opponent that ended their season in the Class B semifinals.
Some pouted. Other frowned. A few cursed under their breath.
“When they moved them up and not us, it was disappointing,” senior left-hander/centerfielder Justin Santiago said. “I thought we deserved to be there.”
Quickly, after realizing the opportunity they were being given, Riverdale cheered up. RKA could be the class of the ‘B’ league.
The Tigers certainly look the part thus far.
They earned the top seed in the Class B playoffs after breezing through Bronx B North undefeated in 16 games. Thursday afternoon, Riverdale run-ruled No. 32 Harry Van Arsdale, 15-0, at Seton Hospital Park in the Bronx to advance to the second round.
“I try to instill in my team a killer instinct,” said Psachie, the first-year coach who has been with the program for several seasons. “We play every inning like we’re tied.”
After a slow start, the potent Tigers exploded. They scored four runs in the second, nine in the third and one more in the fourth, spraying line drives to all fields and taking extra bases at every opportunity.
Sophomore catcher Nathan Heller had a two-run single, senior first baseman Michael Moore added a run-scoring triple and junior third baseman Joshua Lowe and junior infielder Stefan Sunda also drove in a run apiece.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Psachie said.
Santiago and reliever Julio Santos combined to throw five shutout innings. Riverdale is blessed with five dependable arms, including the Arias brothers, Yahnny, a senior, and Matthew, a freshman, and Sunda.
“We’ve very fortunate,” Psachie said.
RKA kept the pressure on until the fourth when Psachie began to empty his bench. Last year, the Tigers led 7-0 in the opening round against MLK, only to have to hold on at the very end, 7-4. For that reason, the coach was particularly happy with the result. As the top seed, there is pressure to get to the championship game, adding on to the urgency his players feel after last year’s near miss.
“We,” Sunda said, “have everything to lose.”
Said Santiago: “This is what we should’ve done. We took care of business. We proved to all the commissioner and umpires we deserve to be the No. 1 seed.”
The Tigers were hardly thrilled.
This was just the first step, they said, in what they hope to be a long journey to the city championship game.
Santiago said the mission started before practice even began. It was that day Psachie informed them they wouldn’t be joining Morris, Jane Addams and Bayard Rustin.
“Everybody,” he said, “wants to show we should be in ‘A.’”