A promising season came to an abrupt end for the Flatbush Varsity Baseball team as a late 6th Inning rally by the visiting MTA Lions stunned the Falcons by a score of 3-0 on Friday afternoon (6/9) in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 MYHSAL Playoffs at Calvert Vaux Park in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, NY.
As has been the story line for most of the season, the Falcons were lifted up by quality pitching only to be undone by errors in key moments of the game. In this case, those errors were at times physical (fielding) and at times mental (poor baserunning decisions). Sometimes the team was able to get past those shortcomings, but in each of the team’s 4 losses on the season, errors played a decisive factor, and that was the downfall of the Flatbush baseball team Friday afternoon.
Though he danced into trouble in the top of the first inning, Rookie Freshman hurler Dani Sharabi was stellar for the Falcons all game long. Sharabi was around the strike zone all afternoon, and in 5 1/3 innings of work, he did not yield even one walk. He struggled in the first inning, giving up a leadoff single and a long double to the number 3 hitter, but he got the first out on a fielder’s choice when Shortstop Al Tawil fed 2nd baseman Victor Allaham to get the lead runner at second, and then got the second out when the lead runner was caught trying to advance to home on the double with Catcher Sam Laniado throwing behind the runner to nab him at third with a strong tag applied by Third Baseman Teddy Beyda. Sharabi put an end to the threat inducing a lazy pop fly to Tawil at short.
Flatbush then had its first chance to put up runs, and when Mo Goldman singled with one out it looked like the Falcons might get an early lead. That went by the wayside when Flatbush made its first gaffe on the basepaths when Goldman failed to get back to the bag in time and got picked off by the MTA lefthander.
Meanwhile, Sharabi settled into a groove, setting the Lions down with regularity for the next 4 innings, giving up only two hits over that stretch while facing just two over the minimum (the lead runner did reach on an error in the 5th inning, but he was quickly erased when Sam Laniado gunned him down at second base on a steal attempt, with Allaham applying the tag).
While Sharabi was setting down the visitors, Flatbush was looking to get that one run that would allow Head Coach Eric Hall to bring in Ace Pitcher Kevin Haddad to lock down the game. It never materialized.
Until that point, Flatbush’s best opportunities came in the second and fourth innings. In the second, Sam Laniado led off with a walk. After advancing to second on a groundout by Murray Dweck, Laniado soon stole third. With two outs, Allaham was the next batter and he took first when he was hit in the ankle with a pitch. That set up a pivotal play in the game. Allaham advanced towards second on a delayed steal, and when the throw went through, Laniado took off for home. The Lion second baseman immediately threw home for the play at the plate. With the ball arriving seemingly just after Laniado, all eyes turned towards the home plate umpire. Working the game alone (the other umpire did not arrive until the 5th inning, having been told by the League that the game was a 3 pm start instead of the scheduled 1 pm starting time), the umpire had moved out of prime position when the initial throw went towards second. Laniado came down the line hard, and slid towards the plate, seemingly getting under the tag as his foot hit home for the first run of the game. Unfortunately, that is not how the umpire saw it. When he turned his attention to the play at the plate, he saw the ball arrive in time to tag Laniado out before he crossed the plate. He called Laniado out, ending the inning and keeping the score knotted at 0-0.
The fourth inning saw Flatbush begin to show real cracks in its running game. While looking to make things happen, leadoff walks to Goldman and Sol Laniado both ended up in outs with Goldman straying too far off third base and getting picked off for a second time in the game. The final blunder of the inning came on a running mistake from Haddad who was thrown out at third trying to advance on an earlier throwing miscue by the Lions.
That set up the pivotal 6th inning. Not having secured a lead, Coach Hall kept Haddad in centerfield and let Sharabi take the mound one more time. It looked to be a fine move at the outset, as he induced a grounder from the leadoff hitter. But, things went quickly awry when the throw pulled first baseman Simon Masry off the bag, and the runner was safe. Sharabi came back and got the number 2 hitter to pop out softly to Beyda at third. That brought up the number 3 hitter, who in his first at bat tagged Sharabi for a double. He connected again, this time on a deep drive over Sol Laniado in left field, for an RBI triple, plating the first run of the game. When the next batter hit a liner just over the reach of Beyda into left field, in the blink of an eye MTA had a 2-0 lead and the complexion of the game had changed. Coach Hall went to the bullpen, calling for Haddad. But the horses were already out of the pen. Haddad threw strikes, but when the infield committed another error, a third Lion run crossed the plate. At the end of the half inning, MTA had a commanding 3-0 lead, and all the momentum.
But Flatbush was not going to go quietly. The veteran led Falcons looked to use the deficit as a wake-up call for their bats. It looked like it might just happen, when Tawil let off with a drive into the gap in right center. It looked like a sure double off the bat, and that was clearly what Tawil was thinking as he sprinted out of the box. But the ball died in the tall outfield grass, and when the relay came in to second from the outfield, Tawil was tagged out almost 10 feet short of the second base bag.
Goldman was up next, and he reached when the pitch hit him. That set up the most frustrating play of the game. With one on and one out, Sol Laniado came to the plate. All season long, Sol Laniado had proven to be the most consistent hitter for the Falcons. With the season on the line, Laniado came through with a solid single. Goldman took off to take third, and the Lions threw in behind him, catching him before he could secure the bag. Meanwhile, Laniado looked to take second on the throw to third. MTA noticed, and fired a throw to second, nabbing Laniado for the final out of the inning.
Haddad set down the Lions in order in the top of the seventh inning, leaving Flatbush one last chance to keep their season alive.
But, it was not to be. With the heart of the order up, the Falcons 4, 5 and 6 hitters managed only a lazy pop out, a strikeout and a slow roller to second. 3-up, 3-down, and a season over too soon. MTA advanced to the MYHSAL Semifinals while the Falcons were left pondering what could have been, but for a bad call at home plate, five baserunning mistakes and three key errors in the field.
Afterwards, Coach Hall gathered his players together one final time as a team. He shared in the frustration of a season done in by miscues both physical and mental, stressing the importance of practice in preparation for play in order to minimize such errors. He also noted how much improved this edition of Flatbush Baseball was much improved up and down the lineup as hitters, noting the work put in in the Aux Nest’s batting cage in making this team one of the best group of hitters during his tenure as Head Coach. He spoke directly to the many graduating seniors who would be moving on, thanking them for their effort and commitment to the program. Then, he turned his attention to the team’s many underclassmen, challenging them to take the steps necessary to prepare for success – reaching out to the coaches, especially Assistant Coach Bret Beard, to identify training programs in the off-season; put in the time in the school’s batting cage during the winter months with Assistant Coach Elliot Zakay and work hard when Spring rolls around on the practice fields to be ready for the challenge of the upcoming season so that the boys can bring the championship back to the Falcons Nest in 2018!