The Hitmen, the boys’ varsity baseball team, never thought of winning the city championship. All they wanted was a chance to do so. Although Stuyvesant lost to Herbert H. Lehman High School in the first round of the postseason, they were happy to merely make the playoffs.
The Hitmen had made the playoffs in each of the previous eleven years, and they were determined to end this season with their 12th playoff visit in a row. “I didn’t want to end my career as a Stuyvesant baseball player being on the team that took us out of our consecutive streak,” senior and second baseman Brian Schatz said.
Dreams of making the playoffs were tragically slipping away as the Hitmen suffered eight straight losses after starting the season with a 6-0 record. Then, with one hit by junior and outfielder Nick Rozar in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Beacon Blue Demons on Thursday, May 15, that losing streak came to a halt.
“Everything that happened in the past four or five weeks in those games we lost was completely gone with that hit,” Rozar said.
Rozar’s RBI single that drove Schatz in for the winning run capped a rollercoaster game and season for Stuyvesant. There were four lead changes in the Hitmen’s 4-3 victory, as Stuyvesant recovered twice from one-run deficits.
Down 1-0 in the bottom half of the fifth, with senior shortstop Mark Chiusano on third base and Schatz on first, junior third baseman Zack Karson hit a triple into center field, allowing both Schatz and Chiusano to score.
“I thought the ball was going to get caught, but it just kept going. As soon as it dropped, I was just really happy,” Karson said. “When I got to third, I just had a great feeling.”
Down 3-2 with bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore pitcher Nick Gallo walked, tying the score 3-3 and setting up Rozar for the winning hit.
With Schatz waiting at third, Rozar hit the winning RBI off a 0-1 pitch. As the ground ball rolled into right field, members of the Hitmen stormed onto the field and cheered around Rozar as he crossed first base while Schatz scored the winning run.
“It was the longest time of my life,” Schatz said. “It was just stressful. Then after that shot down the line, I was just so emotional.”
The playoff-clinching win followed a 9-4 victory over Beacon a day earlier in Central Park, where Schatz, Karson and Rozar also drove in runs. Both games were must-win games for the Hitmen, as an additional loss would have led to their first losing season since 1996 and prevented them from playing in the postseason.
“It felt like redemption because we have always been on the losing end with Beacon, they are usually a strong team,” Carlesi said.
But strong pitching helped them prevail over Beacon in both games. Gallo stayed on the mound for all of Wednesday’s game and recorded three strikeouts. In his first start of the season on Thursday, Nelson-Chow, struck out four through six innings before junior Nolan Becker closed the game out.
“This is definitely the best game I’ve pitched this season because I haven’t been hitting strikes [prior to this game],” Nelson-Chow said.
The team’s performance against Beacon was similar to that of the Hitmen during their winning streak and significantly different from how they performed during their losing streak.
“During those eight games, we didn’t play as a complete team. We weren’t hitting; we weren’t swinging,” Schatz said. “But during the last two games, we came together with everything we got. It was just a complete team effort.”
The effort wasn’t enough to make it to the second round of the playoffs, however. The Hitmen, ranked 30th in the playoffs, lost to third-seeded Herbert H. Lehman High School on Wednesday, May 21 by a score of 3-1. Despite the loss, Carlesi feels that at least one thing can be taken from the ups and downs of this season.
“Winning is a lot better than losing,” Carlesi said.