Cardinals set to soar at California tourney

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The Cardinals are red hot at the right time, sporting an overall record of 36-11-1, a prestigious New York Liberty Tournament Championship, the 2003 Elite league title, a .291 team batting average and a 2.44 team ERA.

“It’s all my kids have on their mind, a championship ring,” said head coach Ian Millman. “I know how tough it is to earn one, never winning one at any level, as a player or coach. I also believe the kids realize that these chances don’t come every year and are really focused on trying to bring home a championship for themselves, the organization and, more importantly, those rings which they will have forever.”

After a 1-3 start, the Cardinals began to gel as the season went on. Playing in wood-bat leagues against the top teams in the area, such as the Bayside Yankees Senior Americans — the Cardinals won 5-of-6 from Bayside this year — Long Island Tigers, Long Island Titans, Youth Service and others, the Cardinals proved themselves time and again against some of the nation’s top amateur teams.

“There were no weak opponents on this schedule. The only way to make your players better and get them maximum exposure ensuring college scholarships is to play the best of the best,” Millman said. “Fortunately all 14 of our college-bound seniors are situated, with varying levels of financial assistance.”

Virginia Tech-bound Sean O’Brien, who was drafted in the 45th round of the Major League Draft by the Montreal Expos, leads the team with a .406 batting average, including 45 hits, 15 doubles 31 runs scored, 35 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

Holy Cross standout Frank Terzo, who is heading to North Florida Community College, posted a .311 batting average with 41 hits, 27 RBIs and 24 runs scored.

Anthony Smith, who is going to George Washington University, had seven homers, six triples, drove in 47 runs and was also named the New York Liberty Tournament MVP.

Francis Lewis standout and TimesLedger All-Queens first team first baseman Yi-Chang Chiang made “some of the best defensive plays around the bag at first that I have ever seen ... major league-quality plays.”

Chiang, who is heading to Queens College, also batted .300, driving in 17 runs on 30 hits.

Grand Street Campus junior centerfielder Kenny Bowers scored 37 times, swiped 12 bags, walked 28 times and sported a .354 batting average. He also drove in 18 runs from the lead-off spot.

Key to the offensive success of this team were Quinnipiac University-bound Josh Charry (20-for-24 in stolen base attempts, 28 walks and 33 runs scored), Plainview’s Mike Rutcofsky (21 runs scored), Cornell-bound Brian Canty (.318 batting average), Muhlenberg (PA) incoming freshman Jason Bonder (23 runs scored, 26 hits and .317 average) and sure-handed Randy Belfiore (19 runs scored and 10 RBIs).

On the mound there were many obvious reasons the Cardinals finished where they did.

Southside High School junior Eric Bretscher was 4-0 with four saves and a 1.33 ERA in 42 innings. North-Florida bound Charlie Foster (2-1), whose fastball was clocked at 88 mph, posted a 2.33 ERA and fanned 42 batters in 42 innings while only giving up 33 hits.

Smith, who struck out 56 in 48 innings with a 90-mph heater, allowed just 30 hits while going 4-3.

Closer Brian Honeyman (Queens College) had 18 appearances, went 5-2 with four saves, posted a 1.62 ERA and got the win in the decisive Liberty tournament victory over the Bayside Yankees Americans.

Junior right-hander Thomas Koehler (New Rochelle High School) used his 88-mph fastball to fan 42 in 33 innings and post a 4-3 record. Dominican College-bound Mike Mondesir went 3-0 and had 29 strikeouts in 22 innings.

The big surprise of the staff is crafty left-hander Jason Bonder’s 5-0 record and sparkling 1.75 ERA.

Dominican College-bound Daniel Rosenbluth (3-0 2.55 ERA), Matthew Raimo, Terrence Hanneman (Iona College), Andrew Chunn (Caldwell College) and Cory Warrings rounded out this armed and dangerous staff.

“This staff allowed us to know that we were in each and every game this summer,” Millman said of his pitching staff that allowed 231 hits while striking out 281 and posting a team-ERA of 2.44.

“The pitchers made each other better, not only competing against the other teams, but competing among themselves as well.”

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