George Washington right fielder Alexis Torres expected a festive atmosphere when the Trojans arrived at Inwood Park for Friday afternoon’s showdown with rival Norman Thomas.
Torres was right.
The first of two highly anticipated division games, originally scheduled for Monday afternoon at Randall’s Island, was moved by Norman Thomas to Inwood Park in order to attract enough fan support to create a home field advantage. Torres heard the buzz.
“A lot of people were talking about this game at school,” Torres said. “Everybody come to this game. When there is a lot of fans, there is a motivation to do your best."
There were plenty of fans from both sides cheering, singing, and even a few playing the drums. With the game still hanging in the balance in the seventh inning, Torres silenced them all with one mighty swing of the bat.
The right-handed hitter sent a moon shot off reliever Luis Zorilla deep into left field for a two-run homer. It powered a five-run inning and an important 10-3 victory for George Washington.
Bryan Mejia hit a two-run double to deep center earlier in the seventh inning to chase Norman Thomas ace righty Jeffrey Ledesma. With lefty reliever Zorilla now in the game, Torres, who has hit over .500 this season, connected on a fastball which ended its descent about 400 feet away from home plate to the middle of another infield diamond.
“It felt good off the bat,” Torres said. “It was an inside fastball, just turned on it. It was a no-doubter. The fence couldn’t have been any farther. It was alike a Manny Ramirez bomb.”
The win also proved that the defending PSAL champions are playing their best baseball of the season. The Trojans (13-1), ranked No. 6 in New York City by MSG Varsity, have won seven straight and are one step closer to securing the Manhattan A East division title.
“At the beginning of the year we were a little up and down,” George Washington coach Steve Mandl said. “People were fighting for position and didn’t know what was going to happen. They are very relaxed now and they realized we don’t have to rely on one person.”
The Trojans offense was able to batter a tough thrower in Ledesma through five innings. Third baseman Wesley Rodriguez had an RBI triple in the second inning and Henry Rodriguez connected on an RBI double in the third and a run-scoring single in the fifth. Leadoff hitter Randy Rodriguez added a two-run triple in the fifth inning to give the Trojans a 5-0 lead.
Mandl was more impressed with how his team was able to handle the pressure of what he described as a strange set of events in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Outfielder Paul Garcia loaded the bases with one out off GW starter Kevin Torres when third baseman Wesley Rodriguez was unable to catch a high popup at the pitcher’s mound. Sophomore Keven Rodriguez recorded an RBI single, and Ledesma followed by socking a two-run single to right field to slice the lead to 5-3.
Torres, regarded as one of the aces, arguably didn’t have his best stuff, but Mandl was still pleased that the senior was able to battle back after hitting catcher Kenny Guichardo to load the bases.
The right-hander was able to bear down and induce Mark German into a groundout to first base. Mejia, the Trojans sophomore first baseman who was removed from games earlier in the season for his inconsistent defense, made a nice scoop on the hard hit bit to end the inning.
No. 11 Norman Thomas (10-2) also couldn’t capitalize with runners in the first two innings, which could have possibly changed the game’s outcome, according to coach Luis Monell.
“I think they [Trojans] just basically did what good teams do,” he said. “They took advantage of key situations.”
George Washington hosts Norman Thomas on Thursday with a chance to win a division title and earn a possible top seed in the playoffs.
“People were talking about us that we wasn’t the same Trojans as before,” Torres said. “But we just came out and proved it. We are on a hot streak right now and I don’t think anybody can beat us.”