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Bryant ends Lehman win streak in playoff opening

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Rocco Rotondi’s preseason message was forget the past. He kept that motto after a subpar regular season.

“We’re not even worried about what we did during the regular season,” the Bryant baseball coach said. “We’re worried about our next game.”

The 23rd-seeded Owls looked like the team many predicted after last spring’s quarterfinal run, not the one that finished third in Queens A West May 23. Bryant upset No. 10 Lehman, snapping the Lions’ string of two straight PSAL Class A semifinal appearances, with a 3-1 road victory in the opening round of the city playoffs.

Nick Alvarez was brilliant over 6 2/3 innings of work, allowing just three hits and one run, and Darlyn Valdez came in to get the final out. Adonis Lao tripled and drove in two runs, Alvarez scored a run and also drove one in and Justin Valentin had two hits for the Owls, who were scheduled to meet No. 7 Monroe in the second round Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the Bronx.

“We’re a much better team than we were a month ago, there’s no doubt about that,” Rotondi said. “We’re playing solid baseball.”

Rotondi made a few changes to ignite the turnaround, moving around a few different players in the field and rearranging the batting order. His team also began doing the little things, such as bunting and moving runners over, taking more pitches and tightening up defensively. Even before May 23’s victory, Bryant did close the regular season with seven wins in eight tries, including an upset of Queens A West champion John Adams.

“We just improved, we got better,” Rotondi said. “We used our losing streak as something to learn from, that we have to go out and play each game hard regardless of the opponent.”

Bryant (12-5) will only face top-end competition from here on out. Rotondi didn’t want to make too much out of May 23’s victory. The lineup still isn’t producing as many runs as he would like to see, and while this may not be a trademark Monroe team, it remains extremely talented.

“We’re gonna give them our best shot and hopefully it will be good enough to win,” Rotondi said. “We’re a confident team. I think my guys want to play Monroe. The fact that we were kind of forgotten after our losing streak and people didn’t take us serious anymore, it kind of lit a fire in our belly.”

Posted 8:32 pm, May 30, 2012
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