NEW YORK –It couldn’t have been scripted much better with George Washington facing Lehman in the Public Schools Athletic League baseball semifinals on Friday night. It had been Lehman head coach Adam Droz who filed a complaint against GW coach Steve Mandl for allegedly recruiting one of his players that led to Mandl’s one-year suspension.
If the plot wasn’t exciting enough already, it got juicier once the game started as the player with the winning hit for the Trojans, Fernelys Sanchez, is who Mandl allegedly recruited.
“I know everyone is making a big deal about the entire situation, but I was just trying to focus on the game,” Sanchez said. “Fortunately I was able to come up with the big hit to help my team win.”
After originally being called out in his at-bat, only to have his out be called a foul ball, Sanchez drove home the go-ahead runs in the fifth to lead George Washington to a 5-4 win over Lehman in Game 1 of the PSAL Class “A” semifinals at MCU Park in Brooklyn.
“I don’t think you could write a better script than that,” Trojans interim coach Nick Carbone said of Sanchez delivering the game winner.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Lehman jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first when starting pitcher, Steven Pinales, helped his own cause with a bases-clearing triple.
With the score 3-1 in the fifth, Washington made its rally. Nelson Rodriguez doubled and came around to score on a fielder’s choice by Alexis Torres. The Trojans later tied the game an error by Lehman second baseman Andy Ramos on a ball hit by Henry Rodriguez.
That brought Sanchez to the plate with two on and two outs. He grounded to first and was called out, but after Carbone came out to argue the call the umpires determined Sanchez had fouled it off his foot in the batter's box. On the next pitch, Sanchez drove the ball to center field for a two-RBI single and gave the Trojans a 5-3 lead.
“That’s a situation where we were able to capitalize on a second chance,” Carbone said. “That’s baseball. This deep in the playoffs, you can’t afford to give up second chances. Good teams will capitalize one it and that’s what we were able to do.”
TURNING POINT: Sanchez got the big hit, but it would not have been possible without Ramos’ error as it led to three unearned runs.
“There is no doubt that is the turning point,” Droz said. “Between that and the umpires overruling the call, which was a fair ball, how are my kids supposed to react to that?”
STAR OF THE GAME: It is fitting that Sanchez would be the star. He went 2-for-3 and added a stole base.
“With all of the off-the-field stuff I made sure to sit down with him and have a talk about keeping his head in the game and not to worry about that other stuff,” Carbone said. “In a situation like that you don’t want to do too much and I think he did a great job keeping his head in the game.”
QUOTE OF THE GAME: “I don’t know if we’ve led yet in the playoffs. It’s not comfortable being in that situation, but we are not going to fold. We are resilient and we find a way to win.”—Carbone
Tottenville 8, Grand Street Campus 3: In the first semifinal, Tottenville was forced to use closer Vinny Aiello as its starter with all its other pitchers having pitched too often this week.
The move paid off as Aiello went 6.2 innings in his first start and allowed just one earned run as Tottenville beat Grand Sreet. Campus 8-3 to take a 1-0 lead in its series. George Kanczian's two-RBI single gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead they never gave up.
UP NEXT: All four teams are back at it again at MCU Park on Saturday. Washington and Lehman will be first at 3:30 p.m. and Grand Street Campus tries to keep from being eliminated by Tottenville at 6:30 p.m.