By ZACH BRAZILLER
Adrian Blanco will never be confused with one of the ‘B’ division speed demons. John Bowne’s husky first baseman weighs a rotund 240 pounds, but his 180-foot dash from second base Saturday lifted the Wildcats to their first city championship in 40 years.
Blanco initially expected Bowne Coach Peter Mallo to hold him at third on John Izquierdo’s single to right-center, but with the PSAL Class B baseball title game in the 10th inning, Mallo took a gamble.
As Blanco rounded third, Mallo thought to himself, “faster, faster, faster,” and Blanco’s anxiety tripled.
“I thought I wasn’t gonna make it,” he recalled.
Not only did Blanco rumble home for the eventual winning run in No. 13 Bowne’s 2-1 win over No. 11 Van Buren at MCU Park in Coney Island, he did so without a throw.
“At that moment,” he joked, “I was running fast.”
Blanco’s magical sprint from second wouldn’t have been possible without Bowne’s Anthony Delarosa and Gabriel Gonell combining to yield just a single run on four hits in 10 innings. Delarosa, the Wildcats’ ace, worked the first 5 1/3 of shutout ball before handing the ball off to Gonell.
The sophomore went the final 4 2/3 and the only run he gave up, in the seventh, came on an infield popup with the bases loaded that somehow was dropped. Fortunately, Bowne also got two outs out of the play as Eliecer Rodriguez and Edgar LeBron were confused when an infield fly rule was not called.
The miscue didn’t faze Gonell, who struck out Robert Starapoli to get out of the jam and didn’t allow a base runner in the ensuing three innings.
Blanco reached on an error to start the 10th and scored on an Izquierdo run-scoring single. The clutch hit wasn’t out of the ordinary for the sophomore, who hit .421 during the regular season and finished the postseason with seven RBIs.
“He’s a very talented young man,” Mallo said. “He’s just very composed no matter what he does.”
Izquierdo looked bad in his first at-bat against LeBron, going down on three pitches. He admittedly was nervous facing the hard-thrower, but adjusted nicely in the 10th. Behind 0-2, he took a fastball to the opposite field.
“I was just keeping my hands back and getting ready to explode with whatever comes,” he said. “I had to come through for my team.”
The championship completes a remarkable turnaround under Mallo, who took over last spring after Bowne went just 6-10 and missed the postseason two years ago. He led the Wildcats (18-3) to the postseason in his first year, the Queens B North division title this spring and a magical playoff run that included upsets of No. 9 Washington Irving, No. 4 Harry Van Arsdale and No. 11 Van Buren (17-4).
“Words can’t explain it,” Mallo said. “It just feels awesome.”
Nobody’s elation could match Blanco, who couldn’t even make the junior varsity as a freshman. On Saturday, he went out a champion and later warmed up city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott before he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the PSAL Class A title game.
“My last year, winning a championship, this makes me feel proud,” he said. “Like when you work hard, anything is possible.”