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The Clinton baseball team arrived in Queens with a noticeable swagger. The Governors danced in the outfield and had the pedigree as a Bronx powerhouse and offensive punch that made some consider them the favorite despite their No. 21 seeding.
But No. 12 Francis Lewis had Jonathan Bobea.
The 5−foot−11 junior right−hander turned the potent Governors’ bats feeble. Bobea struck out 13 and allowed just two hits, leading Lewis to a somewhat surprising 3−1 win May 20 in the opening round of the PSAL Class A playoffs in Fresh Meadows.
“I looked at them as any other team,” he said of Clinton, who finished second in Bronx A East, arguably the best division in the city, and made the city semifinals last spring.
The feeling wasn’t mutual. Clinton Coach Robert Miller called Bobea the best pitcher his club faced all season, a list that includes Monroe aces Abel Guerrero and Henry Cartagena, Lehman right−hander Jeffrey Adames and Jane Addams stud Jimmy Bermudez.
“The cat’s out of the bag,” Lewis Coach Ian Millman said. “There’s no hiding the fact he’s one of the city’s top two or three pitchers.”
Bobea beat a fastball−hitting team with just that — his mid−to−high 80s fastball. He located it inside and out, took some off, later added some on, mixing in a curveball from time to time.
“He painted the corners,” Miller said. “When we were looking inside, he went outside. When we were looking outside, he went inside.”
Lewis (13−4) forced the action from the get−go. After junior first baseman Harold Fich touched up Bobea for a run−scoring single in the first — the only run he would allow — the Patriots got even in the bottom half of the frame.
Junior shortstop David Torres reached on third baseman Alnardo Rodriguez’s throwing error, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on junior designated hitter Jeremy Rodriguez’s ground out.
Two more errors in the second inning — one apiece by sophomore shortstop Melvin Mercedes and Fich — plated the Patriots’ third run. In the third, Lewis scored again when junior second baseman Cesar Murillas was hit by a pitch, advanced from first to third on junior catcher Kennedy Tavarez’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Torres’ run−scoring single.
“They put the pressure on us and we didn’t respond,” said Miller, the seventh−year coach.
It was more than enough support for Bobea. He struck out the side in the second, retired Clinton in order in the third and fanned two more in the fourth.
The best chance for the Governors (10−7) came in the fifth. Opposing pitcher Ali Wagas led off with a triple and Alnardo Rodriguez walked and stole second. The tying runs were in scoring position with nobody out.
Bobea responded by whiffing sophomore right fielder Julian Burgos on a high fastball. He popped up junior centerfielder Kevin Hernandez and caught senior second baseman Raul Rodriguez looking at a 3−2 fastball on the outside corner, knee high. It took him 11 pitches to silence the uprising.
“The season could’ve came to an end in the fifth inning,” Millman said. “Instead, he did what he’s done all year — he set himself, picked up his sign and pounded the target.”
Said Torres: “I know he’s going to get it done, just by his attitude, his head’s always in the game. He’s come through every time in that situation.”
Bobea shrugged his shoulders when asked to describe his performance. He isn’t nearly as good at explaining his dominance as making hitters look foolish.
He said he didn’t change anything because it was the playoffs or that he was facing a high−caliber opponent. He simply threw his pitches in that fifth inning and the entire seven innings, for that matter. He merely went about his job: getting hitters out. It’s similar to the work ethic he has exhibited from the time he arrived at the Queens school.
“He never says no when it comes to anything about baseball,” Tavarez said. “It’s 24⁄7 with him.”
As a result, Lewis is back in the second round of the playoffs, the same place it was a year ago. This club, Millman said, isn’t nearly as talented as it was a year ago, when it likewise won the Queens A East division crown and won an opening−round contest. There is no power hitting like Ethan Liederman, who is now at the University of Minnesota.
Yet, the Patriots find a way to scratch out runs — by bunting, moving runners over and pressing the issue on the base paths — and let the pitching of Bobea and Rodriguez, the fellow junior hard−thrower who will start against No. 5 Telecommunications Friday, do the rest.
“These kids are coming together at the right time,” Millman said. “I’m pleased we won the division, but I was surprised because there were other teams that had better lineups. To win today was certainly the icing on the cake.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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