Victor-iano: Senior leads South Bronx to 'B' title
Moments after pitching his last high school inning, Kevin Victoriano jumped into the pile-up and yelled to his teammates that he loved them.
It was the perfect end to a perfect season, one that was quite uncertain just a few months prior. After beginning the year in disarray after being bumped down to Class B, South Bronx proved that they belonged, capping off an undefeated season with a 2-1 victory against Queens Vocational to win their first Class B championship Friday afternoon at MCU Park in Coney Island.
As the saying goes, sometimes it’s more important where you finish than where you begin. And truer words couldn’t have been spoken for a South Bronx team (21-0) that was just hoping to make the playoffs at one point.
“I knew we had a chance at the beginning of the season to make the playoffs, but I never would have thought that we were going to be undefeated for the season and then run through the playoffs for a championship, it's unbelievable,” said South Bronx coach Frank Colon. “I thank God for this and I thank these kids. I could die today and know that I finally did it."
Few players felt the shift as much as Victoriano and shortstop Danauris Baez, both seniors. Due to restructuring, the school was split into two with the second school, Mott Haven, retaining A Division status while South Bronx moved to the B Division.
After unsuccessfully trying to petition the PSAL with letters to allow them to transfer to Mott Haven, the players refocused all their effort into helping South Bronx win a title.
"I never thought we would make it here,” Baez said. “We wrote letters, but they [PSAL] never responded. So what can we do? We had to work harder. We had to make sure that we did everything necessary to help this team win."
"It's important for us to win because in the past few years, we've been in the 'A' division and we were dropped down to the 'B' in the beginning of the season,” Victoriano said. “Coming over to the 'B', we wanted to make a point to a lot of people that the South Bronx was about it."
Fittingly, it was Victoriano who thoroughly dominated the day as he threw like an 'A' Division in the 'B'. The senior ace finished the day pitching seven innings with 11 strikeouts, two hits, and one earned run.
"Kevin is a horse, we rode him from the beginning to the end," Colon said.
"Before the game last night, I spoke to God and I prayed and I said I would give it my all,” Victoriano said. “I felt that even if I had to throw my heart out there, I would bring a championship to the South Bronx this year."
In the bottom of the third inning, junior South Bronx catcher Ramon Rodriguez hit a line drive double up the middle that set the Phoenix in motion. On the next at-bat, Baez hit an RBI double and Victoriano followed that up with an RBI triple to give South Bronx the 2-0 lead.
"We spoke last night because we knew that the team was depending on us,” Baez said. “We are the only two returning players on the entire team that played varsity the previous year. We decided to carry our team."
Queens Vocational (15-1) scored its singular run in the top of the sixth inning off an error at home plate that allowed Jose Monegro to head to home plate. It wouldn’t be enough though, as the Tigers couldn’t get past Victoriano’s pitching prowess.
Victoriano was resolute after the game that if given a choice between winning it all in the B Division and playing for Mott Haven to start the year, he would choose South Bronx each time.
"We've been through everything in all these years and if I had a choice of going to Mott Haven or winning the championship here, I would do it again - for my rookies especially,” Victoriano said. “They were so clutch today and I wouldn't trade them for anything."
"No matter where you go, the point is to win a championship," Victoriano added.
After 26 years of coaching, Colon also had extra cause for celebration as this was his first championship.
"Somebody told me before the game that it was destiny for this to happen,” Colon said. “I guess it was. I really appreciate these guys."
Baez, who will be joining Victoriano next season to play college ball for SUNY-Old Westbury College, was in disbelief about the moment.
"I felt like we were in the Major Leagues today,” Baez said. “I've never been so excited. This is the most exciting moment of my baseball career. I've been hoping for this since my freshman year."
"I've known Kevin since I was 10 and he's like my brother,” Baez said. “I'm proud to win like this and I'm happy we're able to take this to college. And no matter what, this is a moment that we will have forever."