Mott Haven reaches Monroe elimination round
South Bronx had become synonymous with baseball excellence in recent years, reaching the PSAL Class A quarterfinals a year ago.
Mott Haven, though, which has inherited many of the South Bronx players, is relatively unknown.
“We’re trying to make a mark for Mott Haven,” junior Justin Barbot said. “This is the first team and we have to have a big season.”
The Mavericks took a big step toward that goal Monday, beating Truman, 5-2, to reach the elimination round of the Monroe Tournament. The deeper Mott Haven goes in the prestigious 20-team tournament, which features powerhouses Grand Street Campus, Monroe, Xaverian and Iona Prep, the more respect it will earn citywide.
“We’re trying to get our name on the map,” pitcher Andrew Morales said.
Morales is trying to do the same for himself. The junior is primarily a second baseman, but Mott Haven coach Robert Rosario, who guided most of the players on his roster on last year’s South Bronx junior varsity team, wanted to see what Morales had on the hill.
In his first outing of the year Monday, Morales tossed a complete-game five-hitter, allowing a pair of unearned runs, while striking out nine with just one walk.
“It gives me a lot to think about for the pitching rotation the rest of the year,” Rosario said.
The key to Morales’ success was keeping Truman off balance early with a devastating curveball. He followed that with an effective two-seam fastball for a nice one-two punch.
“I saw all the batters out ahead, so I figured I’d just keep on throwing [the curveball],” Morales said. “And then when they thought the curveball was coming, I’d throw a fastball in.”
With Mott Haven leading 1-0 in the fourth inning, Truman pitcher Michael Gutierrez crushed a leadoff triple, but Morales bore down and struck out the side to get out of a potential jam.
The Mavericks responded at the plate as Francisco Garcia and Elvis Hernandez hit back-to-back doubles en route to a three-run inning as Mott Haven took a commanding 5-0 lead.
Morales struck out the first two batters in the fifth, but Ashton Craig reached on an error and Derick Almote and Noel Ynoa followed with consecutive RBI singles to cut Truman’s deficit to 5-2.
Gutierrez did a solid job in defeat for the Mustangs, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, striking out 10 with one walk in six innings. He was also 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a triple.
While Truman, which competes in the PSAL ‘B,’ lost all three of its games in pool play, Gutierrez is encouraged because all three defeats came against Class A powers.
“Hopefully we keep working hard and get further than we’re at now,” he said. “We need to work hard, the coaches always tell us we have to keep our heads in when we’re at the plate.”
That’s also the recipe for success for Mott Haven, both in the Monroe Tournament and in the PSAL this season.
“We played our hardest and backed each other up like a family,” Barbot said. “We just played our hearts out.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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