As the final out was made, the Stuyvesant boys’ varsity baseball team, the Hitmen, could not help but feel that it had let an opportunity slip away. The 21st seeded Hitmen’s 9-2 second round loss on Friday, May 28, to the defending champion and fifth seeded Norman Thomas Tigers was bittersweet. The game was much closer than the score made it appear.
The Hitmen started off strong, taking an early lead by scoring two runs in the first inning on a single by junior Lionel Jensen. That was the end of the Hitmen’s scoring. Despite getting numerous runners on base, they could not muster another run.
The Hitmen clung onto their slim lead until the bottom of the fourth inning where they imploded. In that disastrous half inning, the team’s reliance on pitching and defense did it in. The Tigers scored seven runs, due in large part to the Hitmen’s inability to find the strike zone, and took a lead they would not relinquish.
The loss marked the end of the careers of four seniors, ace pitcher and team captain Nick Gallo, leftfielder Brandon Sirkisoon, first baseman Michael Block and pitcher Michael Affuso. It was the contributions of these seniors that helped the Hitmen make the playoffs for the 14th consecutive year. Gallo led the team in both wins and earned run average, while Sirkisoon moved from third base to leftfield in order to fill a hole in the otherwise solid Hitmen defense. Meanwhile Block had a great year starting at first base, and Affuso starting pitched in what was nearly the biggest upset of the season, a 5-4 loss to the undefeated and second seeded George Washington Trojans. “We had four great seniors this year, who, in their own ways, added different things to the team,” coach Matt Hahn said.
It was Gallo who led the charge into playoffs, throwing a four hit shutout, against the 12th seeded Telecommunications High School Yellow Jackets, in the Hitmen’s first round’s 5-0 win. The first round win was the team’s first playoff win in five seasons.
Although the season did not end the way the team wanted, every player was proud of the team. “It was great to be on the team that got our first playoff win in five seasons,” Block said.
The shutout win was only fitting for the four-year varsity player and team captain, who has not lost a game since his sophomore year. “Gallo was a leader, the team captain and showed it both on the field and off the field,” Hahn said.
Coaches John Carlesi and Hahn know that the impact of their seniors was not only on the field. They relied heavily on the four to help guide the many newcomers and help them make the transition from Junior Varsity.
While the leadership and experience that seniors can provide is always valuable, this was especially true for the Hitmen. “I told the other three seniors that, believe it or not, people are looking up to you. Sometimes it’s a tough thing to realize that 15 others guys are all looking up to you, but they all worked hard and had great seasons,” Gallo said.
Relying on a team of 13 juniors, most of whom had never played varsity baseball before, the Hitmen’s success this season came as a surprise to many. “The juniors were immensely important. They stepped up and it didn’t matter to them how big the obstacles would be,” Gallo said.
Varsity veterans, such as juniors Scott Chiusano, Jack Zurier, Jakob Moran and Clay Gibson, embraced larger roles, while new players, such as juniors SungMo “Aaron” An and Eddie Cytryn, stepped up and had strong seasons for the Hitmen.
With a relatively young team and with another year to improve, the Hitmen are heading into the offseason with even greater expectations for next year after the many surprising successes of this season.