All-Queens baseball honors

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It was a quiet end to May in Queens.

For the first time in ages, the borough wasn’t represented in either the PSAL Class A quarterfinals or the CHSAA Class A intersectional quarterfinals.

Still, there were plenty of stout performances, from Francis Lewis right-hander Jonathan Bobea to Newtown centerfielder Chris Vasquez to McClancy ace Frank DiMaria and Archbishop Molloy third baseman Phil Loprete.

Newtown won its first division crown since 2001, but fell short in the second round against Staten Island power McKee/Staten Island Tech, as did Lewis, which blew a one-run, seventh-inning lead at Telecommunications. Either could have made it to the quarters with a break here or there.

St. Francis Prep started out strong, but faded after being forced to play 15 games in 12 days because of inclement weather and the breakout of swine flu at the Fresh Meadows school. Regis ended its season in the elimination round and the Raiders went on to upend Holy Cross in a best-of-three series. McClancy fell to eventual champion Fordham Prep.


Jonathan Bobea, Francis Lewis

Whenever he took the mound, Bobea had little margin for error. Francis Lewis wasn’t an overly powerful offensive club and was prone to making mistakes behind him.

So he left little to chance, producing a memorable season on the hill for the Patriots. His numbers were flat-out scary, bordering on absurd: 6-1 with a 0.33 ERA, 108 strikeouts, 16 hits, 11 walks and three earned runs — three! — in 49 1/3 innings pitched and one save.

The 5-foot-11 Bobea, who has a mid-to-high 80s fastball with movement and improving breaking ball and change-up in his repertoire, led Lewis to a second consecutive Queens A East crown, clinching the title with a two-hit shutout of Cardozo. A week later, in the opening round of the playoffs, he whiffed 13 in a victory over Bronx power Clinton, yielding just two hits in the masterpiece.

“The cat’s out of the bag,” Lewis Coach Ian Millman said then. “There’s no hiding the fact he’s one of the city’s top two or three pitchers.”

Clinton Coach Robert Miller called him the best the Governors faced all year, a list that included Monroe aces Abel Guerrero and Henry Cartagena, Lehman right-hander Jeffrey Adames and Jane Addams stud Jimmy Bermudez. Bobea would hardly put himself in that category.

He doesn’t even view himself as a No. 1 — to the rising senior, it’s all about team all the time.

“I just play baseball,” he said. Bobea would shrug his shoulders when asked to describe his best efforts. He isn’t nearly as good at explaining his dominance as making hitters look foolish.

“Bobea is more, ‘Give me the ball, where’s the glove, what’s the sign, let me attack the strike zone,’” Millman said.

He merely goes 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,” catcher Kennedy Tavarez said. “It’s 24/7 with him.”


Ian Millman, Francis Lewis

An established summer-league coach, Millman came to Francis Lewis last spring with a simple goal in mind: to establish a winning tradition. He has done that and more in two seasons, winning a pair of Queens A East crowns and opening-round playoff tilts over established powers.

This season, after graduating nearly his entire starting lineup, save for Bobea, he did a phenomenal job. He brought along junior right-hander Jeremy Rodriguez, a Bayside transfer, incrementally, to the point where he was a co-ace to Bobea by the postseason. He got the most out of a punchless offense, molding shortstop David Torres into a standout leadoff hitter and manufacturing runs, sometimes without so much as a hit.

“I’m pleased we won the division, but I was surprised because there were other teams that had better lineups,” Millman said.

The Patriots got better as the year progressed, winning four of their last five league games, including a division-clinching sweep of Cardozo. And in the postseason, they knocked off perennial Bronx power Clinton 3-1 and held a 1-0 lead over fifth-seeded Telecommunications before the Yellow Jackets won it with two in the seventh.

“Our guys played with a tremendous amount of heart all year,” Millman said. “We certainly exceeded expectatio­ns.”


OF Tommy Cloonen, McClancy

A tri-captain, Cloonen was the heartbeat of a gritty McClancy squad. He led the team in on-base percentage and hit more than .300. He will head to Lindenwood University, a top 20-ranked NAIA in St. Charles, Mo., which he chose over Fairleigh Dickinson and Adelphi. “He played a great centerfield,” Melito said. “I never saw him make an error.”

P Frank DiMaria, McClancy

The right-hander was Mr. Consistency for the Crusaders and one of the top pitchers in the borough. The senior was 6-1 with a 1.60 earned run average, striking out 66 in 55 innings. He will play at SUNY Old Westbury next year. “From start to finish, he never had a bad start,” McClancy Coach Nick Melito said. “The kids felt comfortable behind him and he had confidence in his fielders.”

3B Phil Loprete, Archbishop Molloy

It was a down year for an Archbishop Molloy team that entered the season with high expectations, but the junior third baseman was not to blame. Batting in the middle of the Stanners’ order, Loprete had a knack for punishing pitchers’ mistakes often for extra-base hits.

RF Alex Middlemiss, St. Francis Prep

Middlemiss had a spectacular year for the Terriers at the plate. The rightfielder started the season batting seventh, but ended as the team’s cleanup hitter. The junior hit a team-leading .438 with two home runs, three triples and 28 RBIs.

P Jeremy Rodriguez, Francis Lewis

Outside of a select few rotations, Rodriguez is an ace. On Francis Lewis, he was a dynamic No. 2, a hard-throwing right-hander whose command got better as the year progressed. He was also the one big bat in the Patriots’ order, batting .353 with 21 RBIs and three home runs during the regular season. His best outing, ironically, was his last — he shut out No. 5 Telecommunications across the first six innings, before his command eluded him in the seventh and the Yellow Jackets struck twice to send Lewis home. “He’s the toughest guy I’ve seen throw this year,” Telecomm Coach Ed D’Alessio said afterward.

SS Dennis Strawsacker, William Bryant

The Owls’ backbone, Strawsacker was the staff ace, shortstop and one of the core contributors. When seniors Mostafa Ghonim and Jose Rosado were lost temporarily for academic ineligibility, Strawsacker did even more. His 15 runs scored, 18 RBIs and three victories on the mound hardly told the story of his season.

P Mario Valdez, Newtown

Valdez was on the same Newtown team that went 1-14 and finished in the Queens A-East basement two years ago. This spring, he was a big part of the first division champ since 2001, going 7-1 with a 1.17 ERA, including a postseason victory over Environmental Studies. The southpaw didn’t throw especially hard, but he kept the opposition off balance with a deceptive change-up and by keeping his walks to a minimum.

C Matt Valle, Holy Cross

He is part of a legacy at Holy Cross — his uncle John played 13 years in the minors, his uncle Tommy and father Roy were both football standouts at the Flushing school and his uncle Dave spent 12 years in the major leagues. And Matt did the family proud, too. A solid catcher, he will play college baseball at Long Island University next year.

CF Chris Vasquez, Newtown

When Newtown Coach Neil Rosenblatt said Vasquez’s arrival was a godsend, he wasn’t kidding. The 5-foot-10 outfielder, a transfer from John F. Kennedy in the Bronx with a cannon for an arm, was a terror at the plate, on the bases and in the field for the rest of the borough. He hit .450, scored 15 runs, drove in 11 and stole 10 bases during the regular season. In the opening-round playoff win over Environmental Studies, he homered and drove in three runs.

“He’s been our offensive catalyst all season,” Rosenblatt said after the victory. “He can do whatever he wants — he can lay down a bunt just as easily as he can hit a double or home run. … He is the best [high school] outfielder I’ve ever seen. Just the reads he gets off the bats are not that of your normal high school outfielder.”

P Jose Zuniga, Grand St. Campus

For the second year in a row, the Wolves reigned in Queens A West, led by a deep pitching staff that twirled three shutouts. Zuniga, a junior right-hander, headed the rotation, going 7-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 42 splendid innings pitched.


P Lebro Burnette, St. Francis Prep

SS Nick Copelli, St. Francis Prep

P/DH John Duggan, Molloy

P Jesse Friedman, Forest Hills

C Mostafa Ghonim, Bryant

P Rafael Guerrero, John Adams

IB J.P. Koulotouros, Bayside

2B Stephen Lopez, Molloy

P Andrew Mulvey, Holy Cross

P Franklyn Ramirez, Newtown

2B Mike Socci, Holy Cross

SS Chris Speckman, Grand St. Campus

P George Theodoropoulos, Cardozo

SS Steve Varela, Christ the King

2B Billy Xouris, St. Francis Prep

Updated 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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