Kelvin Toribio was hunched over like a senior citizen as he spoke after the game, the searing pain in his stomach bringing the sophomore rightfielder to near tears.
The Clinton baseball team can sympathize; Toribio inflicted as much pain as he dealt out Wednesday afternoon.
“Whatever it is,” Governors coach Robert Miller joked, “don’t let the (doctors) take it out of you.”
Monroe’s talented underclassman had three hits, including a pair of home runs, one longer than the next, in the Eagles’ 7-0 victory.
Leftfielder Fabian Padilla also hit a two-run shot and senior Henry Cartagena went the distance on the mound, allowing just two hits, walking one and striking out eight. It was Cartagena’s fourth win and lowered his ERA to 1.40.
Monroe also snapped its first two-game losing streak in the division since 1998, according to coach Mike Turo, moving the Eagles (11-2) closer to the Bronx A East crown, now three games ahead of Clinton (9-5) and two clear of Walton.
Toribio awoke with a dull pain in his stomach, which grew worse as the day progressed. He ate a chicken sandwich for lunch in the school cafeteria and was unsure if he would play. The pain became sharp, “like something pushing my stomach,” he said. He threw up less than a half hour before first pitch.
“It showed he really wants to play and he has a lot of heart,” Cartagena said. “His hitting said it all.”
“He’s a pure hitter,” Turo said.
He forced his way into the lineup by assuring Turo he could play through the discomfort, when, Toribio admitted, it hurt the entire game, even as he circled the bases for each of round-trippers.
His teammates, meanwhile, were trying to forget about the past few days. Under Turo, Monroe has lived atop Bronx A East, a perennial city title contender.
Yet, on Friday, they blew a 6-1 lead entering the seventh inning against Lehman – “it was horrible, absolutely horrific,” Turo called the defeat –and fell to Clinton and ace Ali Wagas, 5-1, on Monday.
Unhappy with lethargic and careless play, he benched starters Wander Almonte (third base), Nelson Arroyo (first base), Rikeltin Batista (centerfield) and Luis Figueroa (right field). He replaced them with Carlos Sanchez, who had two hits, Steven Caraballo, Joamy Dominguez and Joseph Morel.
Cartagena, the right-hander who plays shortstop when he isn’t pitching, controlled the shorthanded Clinton lineup – the Governors were without power-hitting first baseman Harold Fich (who was suspended from school) and slumping junior Shaniel Rivera – by overpowering them with his low-to-mid 80’s and burying his breaking ball in the dirt.
Cartagena noticed a different mentality in his teammates; they were hungry, he repeatedly said, pushing for more runs and playing a better defensive game. Junior centerfielder Melvin Garcia made a highlight-reel diving catch on a ? sinking line drive in the fourth; the only error was committed by Dominguez.
“We showed energy,” Cartagena said. “People were on the bench talking it up. We really wanted it.”
Of course, that was after Toribio turned the game in Monroe’s favor with a two-run shot over the wall in right field, turning on an inside fastball, and pushing a one-run lead to three. In the sixth, moments after Padilla lost one over the same wall, he did it again, this time hitting it even further and higher over the short porch, admiring the shot and raising his right hand as he circled first base.
By the time he reached home and was greeted by teammates, the pain in his stomach has returned.