Zapata pitches Poly Prep to promised land
After a standout sophomore year, Poly Prep’s Andrew Zapata has delivered similar success on the mound this season to maintain the argument he is the best high school pitcher in the city.
The hard-throwing right-hander has developed the mindset of a true ace. When the Blue Devils were just three outs away from winning a NYSAISAA championship, it wasn’t a secret what Zapata would do.
“The adrenalin kicked in and I wanted to throw fastballs by them,” Zapata said. “Coach [Matt Roventini] is calling fastball, fastball, fastball and the last pitch of the game he says to throw a cutter and I shook him off and went on to throw a fastball.”
Zapata was right to shake off his coach. It took just 10 pitches – all fastballs – to retire the side as the top-seeded Blue Devils celebrated their second straight NYSAISAA title in a 4-2 victory over Fieldston Wednesday at the Hackley School in Tarrytown.
“It never gets old,” Roventini said. “Winning never gets boring. We love to win. Our guys deserved it. We worked all season from the fall time to whatever date this is. This is well deserved.”
Matt Caposio knocked a two-run homer for Poly Prep (20-4), which also received RBI singles from Morgan Gray and Phil Maldari to give Zapata an early lead he would not relinquish.
The only blemish in yet another fantastic performance for Zapata was allowing a two-run single to first baseman Matt Guzman in the top of the third inning to cut the Poly Prep lead to 3-2.
Zapata wouldn’t allow a Fieldston team that emerged as a title contender in the Ivy League under third-year coach Tony Marro to put up any more damage. With a University of Maryland scout in the crowd, the junior retired the next 12 out of 13 batters, allowing just one hit, striking out 12 batters and walked just one.
Poly Prep, ranked No. 4 in New York City by MSG Varsity, was a bit younger than the squad that hoisted the title at Manhattanville College last year in an 8-1 victory over Berkeley Carroll.
Roventini appointed Caposio as a co-captain along with Andrew Doar for leadership and production in the middle of the lineup. A four-year starter who Roventini says is a quiet, yet hardworking player, Caposio got the Poly Prep offense off to a good start against the second-seeded Eagles.
With two outs in the top of the first, Caposio knocked the first pitch he saw against Fieldston lefty Max Kassan over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer as Poly Prep took a 2-0 lead. Caposio said the key for the Blue Devils was to take the lead early, which didn’t happen when Poly lost in the championship game his first two years.
“It was a fastball, I was looking something soft, he threw me an inside fastball and I hit something hard,” Caposio said. “It’s great to go on and strike first and get the other team to play catch-up ball.”
The Blue Devils picked up all their runs on key two-out hits. An RBI single by Morgan Gray drove in Zapata with the third run to make it 3-0. Maldari produced another run in the bottom of the fifth as Gray came around from second base.
Fieldston (16-4), ranked No. 14 by MSG Varsity, received help with two errors committed by a shaky Poly Prep defense in the top of the third inning. With one out, Guzman hit a two-run single to right field to cut the deficit. Zapata ended the threat by inducing Kevin Fich into an inning-ending double play.
Zapata wouldn’t lay the blame on his teammates, saying he took lone responsibility for allowing the hit to Guzman. Caposio said his teammate had the mindset that Zapata would not allow Fieldston to get back in it. Only Guzman reached base on a throwing error by catcher Rob Calabrese in the sixth inning.
“He’s a fighter. He’s not giving up more than a run or two, a hit or two,” Caposio said. “You can tell when he is locked in, he wasn’t going to let in any more runs.”
Zapata doesn’t like to rest on his laurels or look at his pitching statistics. The Blue Devils ace has attracted a growing number of top Division I schools during the season, but his sole purpose is to help the team win.
“When the season starts, the main goal is to win the championship,” Zapata said. “Personal goals are secondary. I’m just happy to win the championship.”