With a stacked pitching staff and a senior-laden lineup, Iona Prep is considered a favorite to win the CHSAA Class AA title for the first time since 2003.
Raised expectations have their advantages and disadvantages.
“That could be a good thing and a bad thing,” third baseman Billy Martin said. “It just means every team is going to be coming for us. I know with our pitching we stand a pretty good chance to beat the good teams.”
Mott Haven was hungry for an upset at the 43rd annual Monroe tournament Saturday at Lehman, racing out to an early lead against the Gaels. It was serious enough to require some choice words from Gaels coach Fred Gallo between innings.
“Coach called me, Billy and Sammy [Garito] over and said we have to put the pedal to the metal now,” senior shortstop Vinny DeMaria said. “We did what we had to do from there.”
That they did, scoring 12 unanswered runs in a 14-2 win over Mott Haven. The Gaels also defeated Truman, 13-2, Saturday afternoon at Lehman and is the lone undefeated team in Pool B after the first day of the prestigious tournament.
“We stayed relaxed,” Martin said. “Our coaches kind of picked us up in between innings and told us we had to get going.”
The 43rd annual Monroe tournament is a unique opportunity for the Gaels to face teams they wouldn’t normally face. There’s different pitchers, different challenges.
“It’s fun to see other teams from the area, especially in a tournament like this where we see a lot of good teams, a lot of good pitchers,” Martin said.
That’s just what Iona Prep has and why Gallo agreed to play in this year’s stacked tournament, which also features host Monroe, Grand Street Campus and Xaverian.
“The only reason I got involved is because I have 10 pitchers, I have arms,” he said. “I want them all to pitch.”
While senior Matt Mottola (2 ER, 3 H, 4 K, 2 BB) struggled in two innings, juniors Nic Figari and Vinny Martin, who helped lead the Gaels to the CHSAA ‘AA’ junior varsity title a year ago, were impressive. Figari struck out four in two innings of scoreless relief to pick up the win. Martin tossed a perfect fifth inning.
“We’re a very defensive-orientated team, our pitchers throw strikes, hitting comes and goes,” Gallo said.
Unlike years past, there are no big bashers in the Iona Prep lineup. DeMaria, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored, is probably one of the best hitters in the CHSAA, according to Gallo, and he’s a singles and doubles machine.
On Saturday, he wasn’t alone.
Martin had two singles and two RBIs, scoring three runs, Dan Fischer was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Garito had three RBIs and scored a run.
“There’s nobody on the team that can really get up and hit the wall,” Gallo said.
Of course, it helped that Mott Haven gave the Gaels extra outs in each of their three four-run innings.
“They’re disciplined, skilled players,” Mott Haven coach Robert Rosario said. “When you give a good, fundamental team opportunities, that’s what’s going to happen.”
Mott Haven defeated Lehman, 11-0, in its opening game of pool play Saturday morning. Arbely Soto was 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and four RBIs, Elvis Hernandez was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Justin Barbot was 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs and Angel Oyola was 2-for-5 with a triple and RBI for the Mavericks.
Iona Prep defeated Truman, 13-2, in its second game of pool play. UConn-bound pitcher Matt D’Ariano, making his first start of the season after suffering tendonitis in the preseason, allowed one run on one hits, striking out six with two walks in three innings.
Matt Brembs and Martin each had two hits and two RBIs and Pat Decea was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
On Monday back at Lehman, Iona Prep takes on the host Lions at 9 a.m. and Mott Haven meets Truman at 11:15 a.m.
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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