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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Falcon's Nest Notes: Picking Up Right Where They left Off; Baseball Shuts Out JEC in Season Opener

With the scheduled season opener already postponed due to cold and very wet weather, it looked like game number two on the slate for the Varsity Baseball team would suffer the same fate, as the heavy rains and severe flooding over the previous two days left Comer Field exceedingly waterlogged and sloshy when examined amid the mid-day sun that finally broke through the wet and overcast skies of Thursday morning. Presented with a great forecast for the rest of the day, contrasted with the reality of the field conditions on the ground, the Flatbush players were ready to do whatever it would take to get this game played. So four of the senior players, with their exams for the day completed, headed out to the Falcons home ball field on Coyle Street and Avenue Y to put their words into actions.
Senior ballplayers work overtime to get Comer Field game ready
Upon arrival, it was clear to everyone that the field would never be game ready in time for the night’s game. Clear to everyone, that is, save for these four Falcons. Seniors Ralph Navarro, Moe Maleh, Joey Dayon and Michael Haddad believed they could do the impossible. With equipment provided by Larry Umland, head of the Kings Bay Little League that runs the site, they set out to do just that. Vacuuming the standing water from the infield, spreading new dirt to fortify the pitching mound and raking the saturated areas of first and second bases, the Falcons worked for over four straight hours to get the field game-ready. And with the help of a warm, drying sun overhead, they produced a minor miracle – the field would be ready for play!
Coach Hall gives the team instructions as they prepare to take the field
So, without any fanfare, the Falcons routinely took the field and calmly picked up right where they left off at the end of last season. At that time, the team played a 1-0 classic scoring one run in the first and then settling in behind the stellar pitching of then Junior Ralph Navarro to defeat SAR 1-0 in the MYHSAL Championship game. Similarly, on this night the Falcons plated their only runs in the first inning then made them stand up behind Navarro’s pitching and solid defensive play from the veteran infielders.
Ralph Navarro prepares to deliver a pitch as 3rd baseman Teddy Beyda looks on
In fact, Navarro showed all he was as sharp as ever after the long lay-off between the final out of last year’s championship game in June until the first pitch last Thursday, the first day of May. He set down the opposing Chargers from JEC in order, recording all three outs himself – the first on a grounder by the leadoff hitter right back to Navarro and the next two by strikeout. In the bottom of the first inning, the Falcon offense went to work. Leadoff hitter Joey Dayon set the table by drawing a walk, then promptly stole second. Michael Shalom then advanced Dayon to third with a sacrifice grounder, setting the table for Moe Maleh. Like in the championship game, Maleh delivered with the big hit, driving in Dayon with an infield single. After a successful steal of second by Maleh, Michael Haddad hit a hard grounder to 3rd that was mishandled by the third basemen. On the errant throw, Maleh scored and Haddad went to second. That would be it for the inning, but it would prove to be all the support Navarro would need.

The second inning was more Navarro. He stranded a leadoff walk by striking out the next three batters in succession. The Falcons threatened to add to their lead in the bottom of the second. With Freshman Sam Laniado on first having been hit by a pitch in his first career plate appearance and two outs, Dayon again drew a walk. With man on first and second, Shalom dropped down a beautiful bunt for a single. He clearly would have beaten out any throw, but when the ensuing throw eluded the JEC first baseman, Laniado showed some Freshman indecision and held at third rather than heading home for another score. With a force now in place at any base, Maleh hit a hard smash to third that the fielder snared right near the base. With a small stretch, he touched third base with his glove just ahead of the slide of Dayon, forcing him at third and ending the Flatbush threat.
Moe Maleh steps in to the batter’s box
In the top of the fourth, JEC would break up the no-hit bid by Navarro with a drive to right-center for a single. But nothing more would come of it. The first threat to the Flatbush lead would come in the top of the fifth inning. The first two batters took consecutive walks, leaving JEC with runners on first and second with nobody out. The runners both took large leads, and they took off as the ensuing batter ripped a line drive off of Navarro. Fortunately for the Falcons, the ball went right at second baseman Morris Bijou. Bijou secured the drive and quickly made the relay to shortstop Nathan Haddad covering second base to double up the lead runner. In the blink of an eye, there were two outs. Navarro struck out the next batter to end the inning, and JEC’s greatest scoring threat. But JEC had one last gasp in them.
Morris Bijou leads off 1st base
In the top of the sixth, with the score still holding at 2-0 Flatbush, JEC would bring to the plate their number two, three and four hitters. Having set down the first two batters, Navarro got ahead of the number four hitter. With two strikes on the batter, Navarro grooved a fastball right down the middle of the plate that the batter quickly turned on, getting it all with the meat of the bat and pulling it high and deep over the left field fence. But, by ground rule, since the ball was pulled to the left of the light pole in left field – no matter how far it actually travelled, the batter was awarded 2nd base for a ground rule double. Two pitches later, the runner attempted to advance to third on a passed ball. But Catcher Michael Haddad quickly recovered, tracked down the ball and threw a seed to Freshman Teddy Beyda covering third base. Beyda then took the ball and ran down the runner trying to scramble back to second base and applied the tag registering the third and final out of the inning.
The traditional post-game handshake: Falcons win 2-0!
Though Flatbush could not muster any more offense to extend their lead, it would not matter. Navarro would again find his control and showed he was still strong seven innings later as he set down the final three Charger batters in order, all by strikeout, sealing the 2-0 victory. With the rains starting up once more, opening day was in the books, and the Falcons now had a 1-0 record on the season to show for it!

Nest Notes:
The Falcons returned to the field for their second game of the season on Sunday, 5/4, where they fell to SAR by a score of 1-0 in Brooklyn. SAR scored the game’s only run in the top of the 1st on an indecisive fielding play by Flatbush. Joey Dayon set down the Sting the rest of the way, putting on a great pitching performance in his first time back on the mound since the MYHSAL semi-final game last spring. Unfortunately, a lack of ability to hit the curve ball doomed the Falcons as the offense just could not get in gear. The game ended with a controversial no-call, as it appeared that the SAR pitcher committed a balk when Moe Maleh attempted a steal of home for what would have been the tying run. The call was not made and Maleh was thrown out, marking the final out of the game.

The Falcons are back in action Wednesday night, 5/7, when they welcome the Stars of North Shore to Comer Field. Game time is 6:00 pm.