New York High School: Thomas Covotsos

Rapid Reaction: GW 5, Beacon 4

April, 27, 2011
NEW YORK – If there was one thing that George Washington coach Nick Carbone wanted his players to understand after Wednesday’s game vs. Beacon, it was that they aren’t going to steamroll every team they face. The Trojans had to start “thinking baseball.”

That’s what junior outfielder Erick Roman did when he watched Beacon pitcher Kai Glick throw him four straight balls to draw a walk-off walk in the Trojans’ 5-4 win over Beacon Wednesday at home.

“That’s the kind of play we needed,” Carbone said. “We didn’t need him to go up there and hit a grand slam. We needed to get something. Go up there and challenge the guy. Get hit by a pitch. Draw a walk. That’s what he did.”

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: In a battle of two undefeated teams in the Public Schools Athletic League, neither team really took control early and the teams were tied 1-1 headed into the third. Then, Beacon’s Dylan Long slapped a sharp grounder into centerfield for a double that scored two runs.

Batters started to make more contact off GW’s freshman pitcher Reynaldo Hernandez in the middle innings. Giovanni Dingcong drove a ball to deep center for a double with one out in the fourth. Garrison Poulis later drove him home with a two-out RBI double to push lead to 4-1 for Beacon (6-1).

At the same time, Beacon pitcher Juan Adorno was cruising. He recorded five of his six strikeouts in the first three innings and had the Trojans (7-0) reeling.

“In the beginning, it was ugly,” Roman said.

But George Washington didn’t fold. It erupted with a three-run fifth inning to force a 4-4 tie. Hernandez responded by striking out two batters in a 1-2-3 sixth.

George Washington could have slammed the door in the sixth when it loaded the bases with one out, but Alexis Torres struck out looking and Justin Ferrer shot a hard line drive to right that left everyone stranded.

In the bottom of the seventh, Glick, who entered the game in the fifth, struggled with his command and GW capitalized. Glick would have been Beacon’s ace this season, but he’s still coming back from a shoulder tear and only cleared to throw 60 pitches before the game.

He walked Henry Rodriguez and Fernelys Sanchez to start the inning. With two outs, he intentionally walked GW slugger Nelson Rodriguez, bringing Roman to the plate. He threw three pitches that got away from catcher Avery Perez – two in the dirt and a high fastball over his head – before he walked Roman to end the game.

“We played great,” Beacon coach Thomas Covotsos said. “We played every inning like it was the last game of the World Series. I’m very proud of our guys.”

TURNING POINT: Carbone was begging for a base runner when his team took its hacks in the bottom of the fifth. First, Roman drew a walk. Osvaldo Pichardo followed with a single to put two runners on. Then, Alexis Torres crushed a 2-2 fastball off the fence in left center for a triple that scored Roman and Pichardo. Torres initially strooped at third but Beacon’s shortstop bobbled the relay throw and Torres scurried home to tie the game.

“His curveball wasn’t hitting for strikes,” Torres said of Adorno. “I knew I just had to be patient and I was just waiting on the fastball.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Torres struck out twice in the game but each time he reached base, he scored a run that tied the score. He drew a walk in the first and scored on an error when Adorno mishandled a bunt by Henry Rodriguez, tried to catch the runner at second base and instead hurled the ball into the outfield.

Torres’ towering triple in the fifth scored three runs and gave the Trojans all the momentum they needed to crawl out with a win.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: The Trojans didn’t get any offense from superstar catcher Nelson Rodriguez. The junior went 0-3 with two strikeouts--but he saved the game with his defense.

Ferrer muffed a grounder at first to put a runner on to start the seventh and Poulis attempt to bunt the runner to second, but instead popped the ball up. Rodriguez caught it then doubled up the runner at first.

“That play saved the game for us,” Carbone said.

Roman said it took all the pressure off.

“It was like, ‘Whoa,’” Roman said. “We just all turned to each other and knew we needed to just get a hit.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We came in and won the championship game (in the GW Holiday Tournament) 21-0,” Torres said. “Today we proved that even when we don’t play our best, we can play with any team in the city.”

UP NEXT: George Washington is schedule to play West 50th Street Campus Monday at 4 p.m. Beacon is scheduled to play Norman Thomas that day.

Beacon dedicating season to fallen teammate

April, 5, 2011
NEW YORK--Beacon High School baseball coach Thomas Covotsos received a phone call early in the morning on March 19 that there was an emergency. He didn’t think much of it as he just expected the emergency was that one of his players wouldn’t be able to make that game that Saturday.

Unfortunately, it ended up being something entirely different – his starting second baseman John Fernando had passed away in the hospital just after midnight.

Fernando, 17, fell from a six-story building during a party on March 18 in the Forest Hills area of Queens, a police spokesman said. He died early Saturday morning at 12:41 a.m. according to the medical examiner's office and the official cause of the death is still "pending."

Police said they were responding to a call of a disturbed person and that he fell off the building while they were en route to the scene. Fernando survived the initial fall, but died shortly after while in Jamaica Hospital. Officials said the incident was being investigated as a suicide.

Even after hearing the news, Covotsos couldn’t believe it. His initial reaction was that the report was wrong and that instead Fernando, who had an arm injury, had instead died of an infection of some sorts. He though what he had heard was just a miscommunication.

“If I suspected anything from any kid there would be 100 kids on that list before Johnny,” Covotsos said. “He was always very friendly and very open to his teachers. He was always a top performer on the field.”

Fernando was never an especially big hitter, as he batted just .143 last season, but he found other ways to contribute. He was a gifted defender and played a large role as a leader and mentor on the team.

“He was my starting second baseman. I would never replace him” Covotsos explained. “He was a kid who made all of the plays. His hitting was always suspect, but I didn't have to worry about that because we had other guys that could do that. It was his defense and leadership that we needed.

“The boys wait to be a captain, they wait until they are seniors and even then you usually have to say something to them. Johnny was glowing, he couldn't wait to be a leader. Not to be a boss, but to be somebody who could make a difference in the team.”

His friends explained that it wasn’t just on the field where his leadership qualities shined, but also at home and in the classroom.

“Even though he was younger than me he was kind of like my father too,” teammate Manny Ramirez said. “He was always telling me what to do and helping me out. I looked up to him on and off the field.”

Johnny, as most of the players and coaches called him, meant a lot to his team. When Covotsos informed his team of his passing before a game the next morning, most of them had already heard the news. One of the few players who hadn’t heard, Omar Longi, broke down crying while on the mound during the game and the rest of the players who had more time to process the news were merely going through the motions as they were beaten that afternoon.

“It was almost an impossible decision to play,” Covotsos said. “Luckily one of the boys father's is a psychologist (Noah Mathew's father) and he thought it was best for the boys to play because otherwise they would just be in their apartments bouncing off the walls, crying.”

Things didn’t get better for Beacon as they suffered another loss the next week that Covotsos attributed to Fernando’s passing.

“I thought that everybody was just trying to do too much,” teammate Sam Fox said. “I think people were just gripping the bat too hard, trying to hit the ball too far. But coach talked to us after that game and just told us to go back to playing our game, fundamental baseball.”

After that things calmed down a bit for the Beacon Blue Demons. They have dedicated their season to Fernando’s memory. They don patches on their uniforms, one featuring his initials on their caps and his No. 28 on their chest above their hearts. They also plan to hang his jersey behind the dugout during each game this season.

“We're dedicating every game to him, but if we do lose a game, and we will lose games, we are not letting his memory down,” Covotsos said, “The dedication to him is that we miss him tremendously, we wish that he was here, but he is still a part of this family.”

Even still, many of the players on Beacon expect to use this as inspiration to win a city championship this year. To a man everybody cites Fernando’s dedication and passion to the game and they don’t want to feel like they are letting him down by not matching that dedication and passion. So far that has carried over to a 3-0 league record and a team that is very happy about the way it has responded.

“I spoke to them and I told them let's try to go forward, let's have his death mean something, use this as inspiration to go forward,” John’s father Sid Fernando said. “We want this kind of stuff to effect them in a positive way and it has inspired them. They have really rallied around it. It's been a tremendous effort.

“John would be tremendously proud of the way they’ve reacted to it.”