By Laura Amato
Chris Moreno knew what he had to do. It was just a matter of doing it.
The Cardozo junior stepped up at the plate and on the mound last Friday afternoon, recording the go-ahead hit and working the final out to lift the No. 7 Judges to a 9-7 victory over No. 23 McKee/Staten Island Tech in the second round of the PSAL playoffs.
“I wanted to put the team on my back,” Moreno said. “I knew the team had my back and I just thought about hitting the zone.”
Cardozo got out to a quick start, thanks to senior Malik Miller. The first baseman took advantage of a pitch right over the middle of the plate in his very first at bat, blasting a grand slam into center field and giving his squad an early four-run lead.
“[McKee pitcher Joseph Sortino] was struggling to throw the inside pitch,” said Miller, who finished 2-for-4. “He didn’t want to throw it inside, but he had three balls on me so he had to throw a strike. I just went with it.”
Miller’s bomb gave Cardozo some early-game confidence, but the Judges couldn’t hold onto the momentum.
McKee answered in the top of the second, scoring on a wild pitch, and tied up the game in the fourth inning on Michael Robinson’s three-run homer.
Cardozo suddenly couldn’t connect on much of anything, struggling at the plate while McKee took advantage of a handful of Judges miscues. The Seagulls took a 5-4 lead in the fifth on a ’Dozo error and Sortino padded the lead with a two-out RBI single in the sixth.
But the Judges never worried. There was a rally in them – they were certain of it.
“This team, the slogan is: ‘If anything can go wrong, it will.’ We have no field, we have no gym, we practice in hallways,” said ’Dozo coach Ronald Gorecki. “It’s totally insane, and these kids, against all odds, against everything that can go wrong, they’ve adopted a great philosophy.”
Cardozo’s bats woke up in the bottom of the sixth, sparked by Miller’s leadoff single. Mathew Miller reached after being hit by a pitch and McKee opted to load the bases with one out, intentionally walking Daniel Cordero.
That left it up to Miguel Reicino, who came up big with the spotlight shining on him.
“I was like, ‘Oh no, they don’t want to do this to me,’” the senior outfielder said. “Coach came over to me and he told me ‘it’s do or die right now.’
“Everybody was on board, let’s just do this. I saw it right away. I knew it was a base hit.”
Reicino’s two-run single tied up the game and Moreno followed two batters later with the go-ahead hit, driving in two runs of his own to give Cardozo a lead it would not relinquish.
It wasn’t a picture-perfect finish. Moreno gave up one final run, but he maintained his compsure and shut the door on McKee, stranding two runners and striking out the last batter he faced.
There was a bit more drama than the Judges would have liked, but a win in the playoffs is nothing to scoff at, and, after everything this team has faced this year, ’Dozo is taking everything in stride.
“It took a lot of courage,” Miller said. “We had to all talk more, fight more. We started out dead, but something just grew inside of us and we just fought.”