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Knowing the Score

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I borrowed the title for this week’s column from one of my favorite highlight shows about baseball, hosted by the late great Mel Allen, that I used to watch as a kid growing up in the Bronx.

Before getting into the literary, high school version of This Week in Baseball, let me take the time to wish my freelance sports reporter, Gina Stallone, a Happy 25th Birthday.  If you start using steroids now and cheat with underage country stars; you’ll still have 20 more years until you’re past your prime.  Take it from…oh; you know whom I am talking about.

Stallone is a diehard Yankees fan.  It must have been hard to watch the Mets come out as the better team this weekend.  Get used to it.  It’s going to be that way for some time. 

The MLB, at least for New York fans, is not as exciting as many of us would have hoped.  Neither the Mets nor the Yankees are burning up the standings.  Both teams are languishing around the .500 mark, and while there is still plenty of time to turn things around, the wait has been hard to watch.

But, baseball fans, if you really want something to be excited about, just turn your attention to the action in the PSAL.  

It is often considered that public schools are better than Catholic schools when it comes to baseball (the opposite is often said when it comes to basketball), but picking the dominant team in the PSAL has been harder than ever this year.

James Monroe Campus, led by coach Mike Turo, has been the standard over the years, consistently making the finals and winning four City championships since 2000.  But the change over to wood bats has really made a difference and not for the worse.  I barely see a broken bat these days, but what I have been seeing are exciting games from teams that no longer end in a five-inning rout.  This year, it is anyone’s game.

Monroe is still one of the tougher teams to beat, but what the wood bat season has proven is, great pitching beats good hitting any day.  Look at Evander High School as the main example.  Last year, the Tigers were struggling in their first season in the A Division.  This year, while still below .500, behind pitcher Christopher Plasencia, Evander handed Monroe its first regular season loss.

Recently, Lehman was able to also beat Monroe.  Lehman then lost to Kennedy, who had lost a game earlier this season to Gompers.  Lehman turned it around and beat the Knights in their rematch, proving that no one has a distinct advantage over anyone else.   On any given day, any one can pick up a victory. 

In fact, Clinton is the only team Monroe continues to beat consistently, having beaten them twice in the Easter Holiday Tournament, and then twice more to close out the regular season.  But look more closely at Clinton.  They may be young, but they are no pushovers.  The team has taken Lehman and Kennedy to the limit, and lost its final game to Monroe by only a 4-1 margin.  Things could have easily gone the other way.

And looking at Manhattan, Norman Thomas upset George Washington High School and now stand in a tie with a playoff favorite atop the Manhattan A East Division – further proof that no team is a lock to win any championship this season, especially when looking at the playoff structure.

This is not the MLB where the 1986 Mets were able to lose to Mike Scott in the NLCS and Roger Clemens in the World Series and still win the whole thing.  In the PSAL, outside of that God awful best-of-three semifinal series that allowed Tottenville to lose one game and still win a championship over the undefeated Monroe Eagles last year, most rounds are determined in a one-game playoff format.  In other words, you lose, and you are out.

If Gompers meets Monroe in the playoffs at any point and the Panthers pitch Dominique Parra, who pitched remarkably well in a losing battle against Monroe during Turo’s 900th career victory, the Eagles may get an early exit this year, despite having a better team and looking like champions on the diamond. 

Of course, in a league with so many great pitchers, it may all come down to great defense, like that found at Lehman or Kennedy.  I actually think either team can pull it off. 

But there is no way to predict how the championship will turn out.  The only prediction one can make is that when the dust settles, the championship will be coming back home to the Bronx.  How ‘bout that?

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