[Pictures courtesy of Newsday]
It was worth the wait.
20 years after winning their last championship, the Bears took home the PSAA crown this afternoon in a 10-0 victory over Portledge.
In the Bears’ first two match-ups with Portledge this season, they dispatched the Panthers by lopsided scores of 11-0 and 14-0, holding an offense that had been averaging 13.1 runs per game heading into the two-day series to 0 runs and 4 hits over 11 innings while striking out 20 batters. The narrative held steady today thanks to the incendiary arm of Joe Wozny and T. J. Wachter’s 34-ounce maple wrecking ball.
By virtue of the Bears’ #1 seed they were designated the home team, despite playing on Portledge’s field, a venue choice made months before the start of the season. Wozny’s first pitch of the game was a portent of things to come as he splintered a Panther bat, inducing an easy groundout. After a scoreless 1st, the Bears emphatically jumped out to a lead they would not relinquish. After Wozny drew a one-out walk, Wachter dug in, having already displayed his prowess at Portledge’s beautiful Broxmeyer Field. In the Bears’ 11-0 victory on April 29, the Fordham-bound righty smashed a line drive over the left field wall to activate the 10-run mercy rule. A long-time Portledge fan said it was the farthest ball she had seen hit at that field in 10 years of cheering on the Panthers. On the sixth pitch of his first at bat today, he obliterated a 2-2 pitch that landed on a basketball court well past the left centerfield wall, some 400 feet from home plate. Just like that, the Bears were up 2-0.
In the 2nd, Wozny worked around a one-out single with a pair of strikeouts, but the Bears went quietly in their half. In the 3rd, the Panthers staged a rally, ignited by a one-out infield single that died in the lush Broxmeyer grass. A wild pitch advanced the runner to second. Wozny bounced back with a strikeout, but the next batter sent a line drive up the middle that looked destined to halve the lead, if only Aidan Mega had not been patrolling centerfield. The senior charged the ball and fired a dart to catcher Tyler Smith who snared the ball and tagged the runner out to end the inning and seize the momentum. The cheering for the defensive gem had not yet subsided when Wachter put a charge into the second pitch of the bottom of the 3rd, sending a ball into a tree in left centerfield, some 20 feet off the ground. Mega’s sparkling throw followed immediately by Wachter’s second bomb seemed to take all the air out of Portledge. They did not threaten the rest of the afternoon.
The Brook tacked on a fourth run in the bottom of the 4th when Emman Ajewole, Forest Kaplan-Walbrecht, and Seamus Scanlon drew walks to load the bases before Wozny flew out to deep right for a sacrifice fly. After extending his cushion to 4-0, Wozny showed all of his fiery prowess in the top of the 5th by striking out the side, hitting 90 mph on the radar gun in the process. In the bottom half, the Blue & White added two more runs when Ajewole beat out an infield single, scoring Tyler Smith and Mega who reached on one-out walks. Incredibly, Mega scored from second base on a ball that went all of 60 feet thanks to his dizzying speed and heady baserunning.
Wozny capped his dominant day in the 6th by striking out the side for the second inning in a row. It would end up being his last inning of work as the Bears closed the game with a Scanlon single, five straight walks, and a hit by pitch that enacted the 10-run mercy rule.
Wozny finished his day with 11 strikeouts and 0 runs while giving up just 3 hits over 6.0 innings. In the Bears’ three games vs. Portledge this season they held the Panthers scoreless over 17 innings, yielding just seven hits, while the Brooker offense racked up 35 runs. Wachter, who was named the tournament MVP after the game, finished 2-for-3 at the plate with 3 RBIs. Ajewole added 3 RBIs while going 1-for-2.
Following the game, Wozny was named the regular season East Division MVP while Wachter, Scanlon, and Mega joined him on the All-PSAA list.
After capping an undefeated league season, the Bears move on to the NYSAIS State Tournament with the PSAA’s automatic bid in hand. They will find out next week who they face in the quarterfinal round.