Telecom baseball looks to defend championship amidst big changes

May 29, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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What a difference a year makes.

The Telecommunication Arts and Technology Yellow Jackets won the Public School Athletic League city championship last year with a deep team led by Joshua Palacios, who hit .667 with four home runs. This year they are scraping by with no one superstar and just 12 players.

“They’re the right 12 players, though,” head coach Ed D’Alessio said. “I might only have 12 players left, but this is still one of the best all-around teams that I’ve ever had.

“I’ve got speed, very solid defense, guys that can hit, guys that can hit for power, they can bunt, make contact, and the outfield is speedy and can catch everything. It’s going to be tough defending our championship, but these are the right 12 guys so having a small team isn’t going to be the reason we lose.”

After the Yellow Jackets won the PSAL title last season, it looked like they could have the making of an exceptional team. Palacios was leaving and so was Christopher Lee, the bulldog ace that pitched them to the championship, but there weren’t a lot of other seniors graduating.

Things changed right away starting before the season even got started when Javier Toribio broke his ankle. The Yellow Jackets lost two more due to poor grades, a few kids that moved up from JV quickly lost interested and walked off, and then Isaiah Spears, who came up with clutch hits in the finals as a freshman, left the team due to disciplinary problems. To make things worse, Tyrell Hardy, the leadoff hitter, was added to the ineligible list just before the playoffs.

“Having so many players come and go has been very tough,” Austin Ruiz said. “Especially Tyrell and Isaiah, who were two starters on the team. We’re still a very talented team, but it’s hasn’t been easy asking so many players to step up. We have a lot of heart, though, we’re out here trying to win every game.”

The Yellow Jackets have done a good job too and went into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed with a 15-1 regular season record. They’ve done it thanks to a strong core that includes Joshua Mercado, Brandon Marquez, Anthony Nunez and Austin Ruiz.

“We lost a couple of good players from last year’s team and we haven’t had a set roster all season long so it’s tough,” Ruiz said. “We’re not going to be able to have one player come in to fill in. We’ve had a number of guys pick their games up, like Mercado, our shortstop Nunez, Marquez and I. It’s going to take all of those guys and a few others to pick up their games.

Telecom has also gotten the benefit of having four players, including Kevin Urena, Marcos Castillo, Evan Layne and, up until recently, Tyrell Hardy, that joined the team this season after playing for Bishop Ford last year.

“The players that we’ve gotten from Bishop Ford have really fit in well with this team,” Telecom’s ace pitcher Juan Rodriguez said. “Kevin and Marcos don’t make up for all of what we’ve lost, but they give us a chance to make up the difference.”

Even with all of the talent on Telecom, having a 12 player team does have a major disadvantage when it comes to pitching. The Yellow Jackets’ game against Cardozo was recently postponed and the rain in the forecast had D’Alessio stressed because more delays means fewer off days and with such a small pitching staff, that only includes four pitchers, pitch counts could force him to rely on other players that haven’t pitched all season long.

“It definitely hasn’t been as easy as it was last year,” Rodriguez said. “But we’ve had some problems this year and we’ve fought hard to overcome them. We’re a tight group, we have each other’s backs and we still believe we can win every game.”

Telecom will face Cardozo on Wednesday and the winner of that game will go on to the PSAL semifinals where it will face George Washington.

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