An overnight ten-hour bus ride had little effect on the perofrmance of the Flatbush Falcons Varsity Baseball team as they circled the bases for 13 runs in the decisive 4th inning in defeating the Fuchs Mizrachi Mayhem (Cleveland, OH) 16-5 on Sunday afternoon (5/14) in the opening round of the Columbus Baseball Invitational tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
Departing the Brooklyn, NY school grounds at 11:45 pm the night before, the Flatbush Falcons drove through the night to arrive Sunday morning in Columbus. After settling into the dorms on the campus of Capital University in the idyllic Buxley section of Columbus, the boys gathered for Shacharit in the lobby then relaxed in advance of their opening round game with the Mayhem, their opponents certainly well-rested, having the shortest travel distance from any of the visiting schools as they are located just 2 hours north in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Mayhem would throw the first pitch of the tournament (the game starting moments ahead of the Frisch v Atlanta Jewish Academy game on the neighboring field). After lead-off hitter Al Tawil was retired, Sol Laniado showed Flatbush brought live bats with them from Brooklyn, tagging a double for the first hit of the game. With Sam Laniado having the bat taken out of his hands when he got hit by the next pitch, Designated Hitter Murray Dweck followed with a seing eye single to load the bases. The Falcons were threatening. But the next two batters couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, letting the Fuchs pitcher off the hook.
Flatbush sent Freshman Pitcher Dani Sharabi to the mound, and though such a setting could be intimidating to a rookie, Sharabi looked like a seasoned vet, pumping in strike after strike from the artifical mound of JCC Field #2, retiring the first two batters on grounders, first to Tawil at short then to the sure-handed Teddy Beyda at third. The next hitter lifted the ball to centerfield, where it was easily tracked down by Kevin Haddad to set the Mayhem down in order.
Though not displaying the same focus at the plate as in the first inning, Flatbush was however more successful in scoring as Simon Masry reached base on an error by the centerfielder. And after Mo Goldman moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, Al Tawil picked up the game’s first RBI with a solid single.
The lead would not last long, though, as Fuchs Mizrahi put the ball in play, and the Falcon defense was not as sharp as it usually is. The leadoff hitter hit a single, then the next batter hit a ball to right field that befuddled Marty Elmekies. Fighting the sun and a tailing ball, Elmekies got there, but only got part of his glove on the ball. The ball bounced of, and the Mayhem were in business with two on and nobody out. Sharabi froze the next batter with a called third strike. But the next two batters put the ball in play for singles, plating two runs. Sharabi worked his way out without any more damage, but Flatbush found themselves trailing 2-1 after two innings of play.
Flatbush wasted no time geting those runs back, with Sam Laniado starting things off with a single. He was plated by a Haddad single two batters later. Haddad, in turn, came home to score two more batters later when Victor Allaham also singled. Flatbush had the lead back, 3-2. But that lead also did not last long. With two outs and one runner on, Sharabi dialed up two ground balls, but on each one his defenders played “matador defense” as they did not get in front of the ball to knock it down and it went by when their glove swipes were unsuccessful. After three innings of play, the teams were right back where they started, all even.
That was about to change in a big way. With one out, Sol Laniado hit his second single of the game. That brought up his older brother, Sam. The older Laniado found a pitch he liked and lit into it. His swing had a slight uppercut to it and he lifted the ball high in the air. But, it also had a lot of power on it and the ball carried deep into centerfield. It went so deep, it went where the ceterfielder could no longer go – over the fence! Flatbush had its first two-run lead of the game.
From that point on, the Mayhem pitcher came unglued. Of the next 15 batters, 14 reached base safely – two were hit by pitches, two reached on errors and 10 drew walks. The end result was a 13-run inning, virtually putting the game out of reach.
The final two innings saw Sharabi face 4 and 5 batters respectively, with Sol Laniado turning the “web gem” of the game in tracking down a 4th inning lead-off drive in far back center near the fence – while also avoiding the telephone pole out there that just happens to be smack dab in the field of play!
Flatbush got three singles in the top half of the fifth inning, including a leadoff piinch hit from Sammy Beyda in his first plate appearance of the season, but were unable to score. Fuchs scored one run in each of the remaining innings, but it was not nearly enough. When Sharabi induced two consecutive grounders – to reserve infielder Morris Betesh and then to reserve infielder Bert Robinson – in the bottom of the 5th, Robinson’s toss to First Baseman Simon Masry was in time and the game was over. It was a 16-5 victory for the Falcons; a great start to the tournament for the Boys from Brooklyn!
Later that evening, the Falcon ballplayers and their coaches joined the members of the other tournament teams at the JCC pavilion for a Lag B’Omer bonfire and a special guest speaker. On hand to tell tales of his experinces in the Major Leagues, as well as lessons from his life, was Al Clark. Clark is the only Jewish umpire ever hired to work the American League (until recently, baseball umpires worked for either the American League or the National League; today there is no such distinction, umpires work for MLB in general). He called games at the highest level for 26 years, and was on the field for some of Baseball’s most iconic moments including Bucky Dent’s one-game playoff home run at Fenway Park, no-hitters from Randy Johnson and Dave Righetti as well as working the 1989 World Series that was rocked by a California earthquake.
NEST NOTES: The Falcons will be back in action late Monday morning (5/15) when they take on the host Columbus Torah Academy Lions (Columbus, OH) in the final game of pool play. A win will advance Flatbush to the Top Tier Gold winners bracket and a semifinal game at 7:00 pm later Monday night. A loss will relegate the Falcons to the 2nd Tier Silver Bracket and a 4:30 game.