All season long, and through the post season as well, Benjamin Cardozo senior pitcher Keith Rodgers has been literally unbeatable.
He went 7-0 in the season with a 0.02 ERA (and 3-0 with a 0.04 in the playoffs) and for five innings of the 2014 PSAL division A baseball championship game against Tottenville on Thursday, Rodgers plowed through batters, while holding on to a slim 1-0 lead.
But a fatigued Rodgers found himself in a pickle in the sixth after walking two batters. With two outs, he gave up a single, which scored one run and tied the game at 1-1. It seemed as though Rodgers could have his first loss of the year in the most important game.
Rodgers, however, came through in the final inning with his bat, not his arm, and lined a single into left field to break the tie. The Judges added another run in the inning, then senior Jun Young Lim came in for relief and struck out the side for a 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium, and Cardozo’s first championship in 26 years.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play. I didn’t make the best contact, but it got through,” Rodgers said. “I really just tried to lock in the very last (at-bat), make sure I could do something and get a run for us.”
Senior centerfielder Chris Campbell, who will attend Monroe College next year, gave Cardozo the 1-0 lead in the first inning. He blasted a double to right field, sending sophomore infielder Noah Cabrera home.
“We were underdogs coming into this, but we showed that we could complete with any team in the league,” Campbell said.
The win became extra emotional when players began signing happy birthday on the field for head coach Ron Gorecki. Gorecki, who has coached high school baseball for more than four decades around city schools, admitted has never had a team like the 2014 Benjamin Cardozo Judges.
There are a few standouts— specifically seniors Rodgers, Campbell and Lim— but otherwise the team doesn’t have many superstars. So Gorecki works on a system of “synergy,” which he describes as players substituting for others’ weaknesses and working together. He attributed the win to his team philosophy.
“The real bottom line here is that we are synergy, this team is built on synergy,” Gorecki said. “We have guys that can run, we have guys that can’t run, we have guys that can throw, we have guys that can’t throw. So what they do is they substitute for one another.”