Lehman College was the location of a key Bronx AA West Division battle featuring the High School of American Studies and Christopher Columbus. But it would be youth that shined the brightest this day, but not in a good way for the Senators, who were handed their third loss of the season.
With American Studies down a run in the top of the seventh, Columbus turned to fireballing Giovanni Diaz to pitch against the freshman-heavy bottom of the Senators’ batting order.
Diaz “throws as hard as anyone in the division,” Senators head coach Pete Nizzari said. “He’s their ace, and we had 14-year-old freshmen at the plate. They were completely overpowered.”
Diaz showed his strength from the mound, forcing a groundout to shortstop before striking out two other batters, shutting the door on American Studies and earning a save in Columbus’ 3-2 victory.
For Senators shortstop Julian Trebach, facing Diaz was a learning experience.
Diaz “is the fastest guy that the freshmen are going to see for four years,” Trebach said “To have one of their first at-bats against a guy like that is crushing. The best thing that we can do right now is be there for them and let them know that it doesn’t define them as players.”
Trebach’s rare 0-for-3 performance at the plate forced self-reflection as well.
“If we keep having the mindset that we have to get hits early and get runs early, it’s not going to come down to being down by one run with the bottom of the order up to bat,” he said. “You need to log off in terms of individual stats, and always play hard. You can never carry a bad at-bat to your next at-bat.”
The Senators had a chance to grow their early 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth, but failed to capitalize. Dashiel Handler was on second with one out, and two of American Studies’ best hitters were coming up, Nizzari said.
“Julian struck out, I can’t get mad at him for that. And then Damon (Lawrence Jr.) hit a line-drive past the third-baseman, (and) we tried to score the runner from second but he got thrown out from leftfield. It was the biggest play of the game, but that’s baseball.”
Senators starting pitcher Casey Press left the mound in the bottom of the fifth, leaving two runners on base for Lawrence, who came on in relief. But Columbus capitalized by scoring both the tying and go-ahead runs before holding on for the win.
Press pitched four solid innings in the loss, tallying seven strikeouts, six walks, two hits and three earned runs.
“I’ve been struggling with command lately, but overall I’m pretty satisfied,” Press said. “I’m happy with my performance today.”
Despite a rocky fifth, Press pitched his way out of multiple jams while he stranded an impressive five runners in scoring position.
“When it gets intense, I definitely change my mindset and focus on getting the next guy out,” Press said. “I always go from the stretch to simplify everything, so I’m naturally comfortable with runners on base.”
Nizzari looks forward to Press’ next start.
“Casey will go again on Thursday, he’ll be ready,” the coach said. “I have grand visions. We need one more game to make the playoffs, and we’re scrappy. We can play with anyone, and we’ll see what happens when we hopefully get into the playoffs.”
With the season coming to a close, the Senators remain confident in their ability to finish strong.
“We have to keep in mind that we’re a good team, we don’t get blown out,” Trebach said.
“These one-run games need to (be) remembered as a good thing. We keep the game close, and we know that we can and should win every game from here on out.”
Trebach, the player who receives “MVP” chants from his teammates and coaches, provided a lasting statement to not only his team, but the rest of the league.
“We truly believe that we’re the best team in the Bronx AA,” he said. “We have to keep working hard and prove it.”