Poly Prep senior Rob Calabrese doesn’t have to look far to be reminded what he is playing for this season. The catcher and the Blue Devils are looking to claim their fourth-straight private school state title, something that has never been done in school history.
Calabrese has “IV Peat” written on his batting gloves.
“That’s the goal of everyone,” he said.
It has been an achievement he and classmate Morgan Gray have talked about since they started on the varsity as freshmen. The two believe this year’s squad is the most talented of the four they’ve been on. They said everyone from last year’s club chose not to get championship rings because they plan on earning even more meaningful ones this season.
“Four Ws in a row is like nothing else,” Gray said.
In order to do so, Poly Prep will have to make up for the loss of its top two pitchers in ace Andrew Zapata, now at UConn, and Phil Maldari, who tossed a shutout of Fieldston in last year’s title game.
Gray, the team’s second starter last season, is now the ace of a deep staff. He has plenty of big-game experience, throwing a no-hitter against Rye Country Day in the playoffs. He has never been a team’s number one pitcher, but says is ready for the challenge.
“Now there is a lot of weight on my shoulders, but it feels good,” Gray said “I’m excited for it. I feel like I’ve earned it at this point.”
Poly has plenty of quality arm. Freshman Nick Storz — who played varsity as an eighth grader — junior Andrew Ehrenberg, Andrew Webber, Tyler Winfig and Joe Kennedy will also see some time on the mound, according to head coach Matt Roventini. Ehrenberg has already tossed a two-hitter against Ivy League foe Riverdale.
Grey, who also plays centerfield and bats cleanup, may be the rotation’s leader, but Roventini describes Calabrese, the team’s No. 2 hitter, as the team’s heart and soul. He bats second in a deep order behind star shortstop Anthony Prato. The sophomore’s speed and smarts give him a chance to mature into one of the city’s best lead-off hitters.
“He was the engine that started us last year,” Roventini said. “Now that he is a better player on top of that, to me, if we get him on base, we are going to score a boatload of runs.
Prato is part of a strong lineup that Roventini believes opposing pitchers will have trouble keeping quiet for a whole game. Freshman right fielder Pat DeMarco, junior first baseman Christian Pelligrino and left fielder Matt Zapata already look more comfortable at the plate, according to Roventini. No. 3 hitter Daniel Bakst is expected to provide steady production and Isaiah Russell brings speed to the bottom of the order.
“I think by the third and the fourth inning we are really jumping on people and it’s really exciting to see,” Ehrenberg said.
Calabrese, Gray and their teammates hope to be jumping on each other in a pile celebration in their final game again this season. Their passion to complete the quest for a fourth-straight state title is noticeable.
“I think they are driven,” Roventini said. “You can sit on your laurels and say you have beaten a few people, but I think this year, because its that special number four, I think its driving them more.”