The underdogs are kings of the yard now.
The Berkeley Carroll baseball team came into the year with little fanfare after a first-round exit from the private school state tournament last season. Brooklyn power Poly Prep was talking of a third straight title, and Fieldston in the Bronx was hoping for a return trip to the final.
The Lions laid in wait, however, feeling pretty confident after a preseason trip to Florida. They banked their hopes on strong pitching and defense, and an offense set on aggressive base running and timely hitting.
“Guys started to have sense that we know who we are and how we play,” Berkeley Carroll coach Walter Paller said. “Someone’s going to have to beat us while we are playing our style.”
So far that hasn’t happened.
The Park Slope school is now in line for a No. 1 seed when the state tournament begins in May. It’s at the top of its division and owns non-league wins over Poly Prep, Fieldston and Xaverian.
“We weren’t talked about at all,” said third baseman Chris Harper, who drove in three runs against Fieldston. “We just went out on the field and proved them wrong.”
The Lions leader is the epitome of underrated talent. Righty-ace Ian Miller, who throws in the mid-80s, has really come into his own this season. Miller, who is joined by Anthony’s Spina at the top of the rotation, had gotten little fan-fare or accolades citywide before.
The junior, who can throw six-pitches including a sidearm curve, outdueled Poly Prep’s UConn-bound ace Andrew Zapata for a 1–0 win earlier this season. He shut out Fieldston 3–0 and struck out ten in a win last Saturday.
“It’s all going to come,” Miller said.
Paller knew the ace had potential when he saw Miller a freshman. All it would take was a little hard work, dedication, and smarts on the mound. Paller likes the fact that he’s gone a bit unnoticed. Opponents eventually find out how dangerous he is.
“By the time the fourth inning rolls around, you know you have a tough day,” Paller said.
Berkeley Carroll knows the road to a state title won’t be easy, with plenty of quality teams out there. A lot of the players’ motivation stems from the opening-round loss to Horace Mann in the start of last year’s tournament. The disappointment sticks with them as they look to claim the school’s first crown since 2009.
“We all have that desire to get back and do really big things,” Miller said.Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk