Confident Midwood earns spot among city’s top teams

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This was the season the Midwood baseball program has been building toward, and it hasn’t let the expectations go unfulfilled.

The Hornets squad is in the running with the Public School Athletic League’s top teams thanks to a deep lineup, a determined starting rotation, and a belief in itself that others may not have shared until recently.

Midwood (10–2) is on pace for its most league wins since coach Charlie Barbieri took over seven years ago. It swept its two games against borough rival James Madison, split with 2013 city champion Grand Street, and tied the 2012 title winner George Washington.

The wins against Madison taught Hornets players that they can compete with anyone — something Barbieri has been drilling into them. A 9–4 victory over Grand Street on May 5, and holding a 1–0 lead through five innings in the teams’ second meeting has rightfully opened the eyes of others around the city.

“I think it got some people’s attention,” senior shortstop Milo Sklar said.

Their success didn’t happen over night. Barbieri has been building a culture of winning at Midwood and his four core seniors have bought in. The coach knew he had a special group in Sklar, second baseman Brandon Eng, first baseman Michael Scolavino and designated hitter Robert Feldman. They have started for four years and their baseball IQs were well beyond their years as freshmen. It was just a matter of them maturing physically and believing in their abilities.

“The last couple years, they put it all together and you have a pretty good team,” Barbieri said.

What’s made the Hornets’ season even more remarkable is the lack of a hard-throwing ace. The player who was supposed to fill that role — sophomore Samuel Boorstyn — missed the entire season with an elbow injury. Senior Austin Cordero has become the workhorse of the pitching staff. He, Sklar and a host of others have combined to carry the load.

“We don’t have that mid-80s guy who is going to go in there and dominate a game for us,” Barbieri said. “Offensively, we are as good as anybody. We play good defense.”

His lineup has proved deep and potent. Leadoff man Gavin Brien, Michael Taormina and Daniel Fortier have provided plenty of support for Eng, Sklar, Scolavino and Feldman. Midwood had its offense bolstered by the addition of freshman catcher Nicholas Cardieri, whose arm behind the plate has also limited opponents’ ability to run against them.

“He changes the game for use behind the plate with his arm and calling games,” Sklar said.

Several ingredients gives Midwood a chance to make a deep playoff run — the biggest is they now believe they can.

“The guys learned how to compete the last couple of years,” Barbieri said. “We saw it last year. Guys just weren’t afraid. They feel like they are going to win every game.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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