Brian Paulino thrives in high-pressure situations. The bigger the game, the better the St. Raymond senior left-hander pitches.
“I live for that,” he said.
In a huge CHSAA Class AA Bronx-Manhattan clash against All Hallows Tuesday afternoon, Paulino was an absolute beast in a 2-1 eight-inning victory at Ravens Field.
Paulino allowed one earned run on five hits, striking out 14 and walking just two to improve to 3-1 on the season.
“He didn’t cave in, he always battles,” St. Raymond coach Marc DeLuca said. “His pitch count was getting up there, but he was still good. He got through that last inning. Bottom line, he gave us a chance.”
That wasn’t always the case.
Last year, Paulino struggled with his command and when the season was over, he thought his high school career was, too.
“I was all over the place in 11th grade,” he said. “I don’t want to look back. I didn’t want to play baseball anymore. I lost the love for the game.”
But with the help of his teammates and pitching coach Julio LaSalle, a former New Utrecht standout and 13th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Paulino worked hard during the winter to come back even stronger. That was evident when he begged DeLuca to pitch in the annual preseason game against PSAL powerhouse George Washington.
“I wanted that game,” Paulino said. “I love pitching against big hitters. They’ve had No. 1 draft picks on their team. They’re very good.”
Paulino struck out 10 and gave up just one run in six innings. St. Ray’s lost the game, 2-1, but DeLuca knew he had a dependable lefty in his rotation.
“I think that was the confidence he needed,” DeLuca said. “That was the game he wanted and that was to prove to himself that he belongs.”
Paulino continues to prove that and the colleges are taking notice. DeLuca said Dominican, Lehman, Monroe and Southern New Hampshire have all expressed interest.
A few of those coaches were on hand Tuesday to see Paulino’s finest masterpiece.
“The kid definitely won himself a scholarship,” DeLuca said.
Jason Reyes pitched well for All Hallows (7-5), but his bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning put the Ravens on the scoreboard.
Reyes, who allowed one earned run on six hits, striking out five while walking four in 6 1/3 innings, helped himself with an RBI single to center in the top of the sixth to tie the score at one.
Phoenix Deschamps led off the seventh with a double to center and the left fielder stole third. But Paulino, who threw a changeup, a two-seam fastball and a curveball for strikes, struck out Jonathan Aponte, Luis Gonzalez and Randy Torres to get out of the jam. He got stronger as the game went on, striking out five in the final two innings.
“The key thing against them, I was just on point,” Paulino said. “I had to throw strikes.”
While Paulino is all business on the field and in the dugout – he sits away from teammates to stay focused – it’s a different story inside St. Raymond. In that sense, he’s a typical free-spirit lefty.
“He’s very weird. He’s just the funniest kid you’ll ever meet,” right fielder Cheyenne Reyes said. “In school, he’s a clown.”
St. Ray’s (10-3) had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with two outs, but Tulane-bound shortstop Stephen Alemais, who came in to relieve Reyes, struck out David Sanchez to force extra innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, Jeffrey Ramos worked out a one-out walk and reached third on a pair of wild pitches and pinch-hitter Nick Rivera was hit by a pitch. Erickson Bueno, running for Rivera, stole second.
Facing the top of the St. Ray’s lineup, Alemais struck out Jordanis Nunez and induced Cheyenne Reyes to hit a slow roller on the infield grass that Gonzalez was forced to charge from third.
Cheyenne Reyes thought he blew his opportunity, until his teammates poured out of the dugout after Ramos scored the dramatic winning run.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” he said. “It’s indescribable. I’ll take it every day.”
It was a massive victory for St. Raymond, which has won 10 of its last 11 games, because it moves the Ravens even closer to winning the division title, which means an automatic bid and a top-four seed in the CHSAA Class AA double-elimination tournament.
This is a huge game, it’s almost like a three-game lead because we have two in the loss [column] and the tiebreaker head-to-head,” DeLuca said. “That’s huge going into the last three games of the season.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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