By Joseph Staszewski
Benjamin Cardozo’s veterans want to get back to the sweet thrill of victory after enduring a crushing playoff defeat.
The sting of a 2-1 quarterfinal loss in nine innings to James Madison isn’t forgotten by the returning Judges, many of whom helped the school win the PSAL city baseball title two years ago.
“We have that right in the back of our heads and we are looking forward to getting over that and going further this year,” said senior second baseman Noah Cabrera.
They will try to do so with a roster that is arguably deeper than the one that brought home the title and is bolstered by key additions. Senior Alvin Melendez, a St. Mary’s (L.I.) transfer, is going to be the Judges’ No. 1 starter and will play both shortstop and center field depending on who else is on the mound.
Cardozo coach Ron Gorecki wants to get Melendez as many at bats as he can and could hit him as high as second in the batting order. His versatility makes him a perfect fit for a Judges team that has a plethora of interchangeable parts.
“He is a big addition,” senior Aldwin Corona said. “He can pitch. He can play the outfield, play the infield. It’s always great to get a guy like that. He is also a leader, so it is a plus.”
Melendez joins Cabrera and Corona in a loaded Judges rotation that also includes Malik Miller, Jackson Heuer and Devin Haberstumpf.
“Our pitching staff is really deep,” Corona said. “We have four or five solid starters.”
They will be throwing to two of the best catchers in the city in junior Michael Colletta, who has drawn interest from St. John’s and Seton Hall, and Isaiah Mirabel, who will play third and close when he is not behind the plate.
“He has all the tools, professional hands,” Gorecki said of Colletta.
The biggest surprise so far is sophomore transfer Chris Moreno, who can play the outfield, pitch and will add speed to either the top or bottom of the order. Colletta will bat third and Haberstumpf, who led the city last season with 24 RBI, will clean up.
“Our line up is as deep as it can get,” Cabrera said. “It’s probably the deepest that we’ve had. It’s probably deeper than the lineup we had in the championship game two years ago.”
Cardozo believes it has all the pieces for another run at a trip to Yankee Stadium. The seniors were sophomores when the team won and want a title to call their own.
“We are just trying to win another ring,” Corona said. “I want to lead this team to win another ring.”