Pete Nizzari didn’t like what he was seeing last week, and it had nothing to do with the three medical procedures he has had performed on his right eye to correct a detached retina.
What Nizzari was witnessing was a rarity — a day when his American Studies baseball team looked ordinary instead of exceptional. And being ordinary against Bronx AA West Division-leading Inwood Academy was not a good game plan.
“I’m not making any excuses, but we didn’t have any games over the vacation and we were kind of flat,” Nizzari said.
The Senators did indeed have a lot of downtime recently playing just one game since April 12 before taking on unbeaten Inwood on May 2. Blame spring break and a trio of rainouts.
And the rust showed as American Studies jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to lose 4-3 in extra innings.
A loss by American Studies is rare enough, but to cough up a three-run lead and lose is even more uncommon for these Senators.
“We might have been a little shaky defensively, a little rusty, and made a couple of errors that ended up costing us a couple of runs,” said Ari Wigder, who hurled eight innings and allowed just one earned run for the Senators.
“But I’m looking forward to playing them again.”
But the Senators brushed off the loss to Inwood, and last Friday, looked like their old selves again as Damon Lawrence Jr., tossed five innings of one-hit ball and Wigder did the bulk of the offensive damage with two hits and five RBIs as American Studies blanked Roosevelt 10-0 to up its record to 7-2 on the season.
“Damon pitched very well,” Nizzari said. “He was terrific.”
Lawrence, the junior right-hander, cruised through the first four innings without allowing a hit while striking out five and walking a pair. The only time he got into any sort of trouble was in the fifth when Roosevelt loaded the bases with two outs.
But Lawrence got Jeffrey Pena to line out to second baseman Dashiel Handler to end the inning.
American Studies was never in any real danger during Roosevelt’s attempted offensive uprising as the Senators were holding an 8-0 lead at the time. They went right to work in the bottom of the first when Handler knocked in a run with an RBI single before later scoring from third base on a wild pitch.
Lawrence then added a sacrifice fly, and it was 3-0 Senators with more to come.
American Studies added two more runs in the bottom of the second on a two-run single by Wigder to go up 5-0. One inning later, Wigder added his second two-run single of the game with Nick Bliss also scoring in the inning on a wild pitch for the 8-0 cushion.
American Studies added their last two runs in the fifth on RBI walks to both Wigder and Lawrence for a 10-run advantage, forcing the Public School Athletic League’s mercy rule to kick in.
So yes, one day after a seldom-seen defeat, all was back to normal in the Senators’ world.
“I think it was good for us as a team,” said Lawrence, who was masterful on the mound. “Nobody likes losing, and since it’s not common for us, it’s tough when we do lose, especially in extras and when we put a lot of effort in. But this game was good. This was a beatable team, and everybody hit today and we got it done.”
Wigder, who was the hard-luck loser in the Inwood defeat, marveled at Lawrence’s stellar performance.
“He hasn’t pitched in a month and he’s just kind of been in reserve just waiting for his chance to pitch,” Wigder said. “And for him to come out and do this is exactly what we needed. It shows that he is a vital part of our rotation for sure.”
With seven wins on the season, the Senators now sit just one victory shy of locking up a playoff spot. With six games remaining, it’s certainly more a matter of when than if they get that last win.
While American Studies could clinch against Inwood Academy (13-0) in a rematch scheduled for May 8, they also face South Bronx (2-7) on May 10 and Bathgate (9-2) on May 11.
So the Senators will have three chances this week to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Nizzari, who has seen it all in his 40-plus years as a high school baseball coach, is liking what he’s seeing from this Senators team again.
“I’m not going to brag,” he said, “but we can play with anybody.”