Forest Hills coach Marty Finkelstein knows his team's limitations. Never recognized as a great hitting team, the Rangers are forced to scratch and claw for runs any way they can. Finkelstein has a full array of tricks, including bunts, delayed steals and hit-and-runs at his disposal.
In the PSAL 'B' quarterfinals Wednesday, the Rangers didn't make the most of the few chances Gompers gave them, as the sixth-seeded Panthers ousted the defending Class 'B' city champions, 5-0 at Forest Hills.
Gompers advances to face No. 15 Flushing in the semifinals Monday at a site to be determined. The Red Devils upset MLK, 9-4, Monday.
"We just couldn't capitalize on our opportunities," Finkelstein said. "Baseball, as the professional announcers always say, is a funny game. The kids wanted to repeat, but we just didn't hit the ball as well as we would have liked."
While four errors by Gompers (14-2) opened a small window of opportunity for No. 3 Forest Hills, the Panthers made the defensive plays when they had to. In the second inning, Danny Manjarrez singled to right, stole second and reached third on an error. But Gompers junior pitcher Rafael Torres bore down and struck out Danny Thalblum to end the inning.
In the third, Alex Kigel reached on a bunt base hit and Finkelstein tried some of his magic, sending Kigel on Gus Llanos' bunt attempt. But Llanos popped the ball up to Torres, who tossed to second for the double play.
Kenny Vazquez led off the fourth inning with an infield single and stole second. After Jonathan Scherer struck out, cleanup batter Brett Cassidy sent a fly ball to center that looked like it would drop. But Gompers centerfielder Joseph Trivino made a diving stab to save a run. Jason Demers followed with another infield single to put runners on the corners, but Torres fanned Danny Manjarrez to end another rally.
In the fifth inning, back-to-back infield errors gave the Rangers a runner at second with two out. Leadoff batter Luca Paraschivoiu hit the ball hard down the third base line, but Gompers third baseman Joesche Ramirez backhanded the ball and fired a strike to first to end the inning.
"From the third game [of the regular season to now] the defense has been pretty good," said Gompers head coach Louis Figueroa. "Sometimes with kids, they start to drift a bit and they need a bit of a wake up for them to realize we have a game here."
Torres, who just starting pitching during the summer for Bert Beagle on the New York Angels, wasn't overpowering, but he had full command of all four of his pitches, including a nasty cut fastball.
"I just recently learned that pitch," said Torres, who scattered five hits, including three in the infield, striking out five with no walks for the complete-game shutout. "I was just throwing around with my friends and invented it."
Torres also scored the game's first run on Hector Hernandez's ground-rule double over the porch in right field. Torres drove in Gompers' second run of the game in the third inning with a double to left. Forest Hills starter Vazquez walked Jose Vera and hit Charlis Hernandez with a pitch, loading the bases with no out.
Hector Hernandez grounded into a fielder's choice to put the Panthers ahead, 3-0, and Jose Gomez followed with an RBI-single to left to put Forest Hills (21-7-1) in a four-run hole. Trivino added an insurance run in the seventh, driving home Gomez.
Flushing 9, MLK 4. The 15th-seeded Red Devils continued their unlikely run through the 'B' playoffs, as Lucas Brito and Mohammad Atif homered and Kevin Jenkins pitched a complete game for Flushing (13-3) Wednesday over No. 7 MLK.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2001 Community News Group
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