The sun was beating down on the red and green-colored pavement on a smoldering Friday afternoon as the stage was set for one of the most memorable games in MYHSAL Varsity softball history. With the league's first playoff game, the match was between two longtime rivals Shaarei Torah, and DRS. In fact, the last time these two teams met in the vasity playoffs was the '13 final when DRS coaches Gabriel Benjamin Dechter and Daniel Ash both raised the trophy after losing the previous year to that same Shaarei ballclub...
As the underdog and playing on the road, DRS had to travel to Brooklyn to compete against a heavily armed Shaarei team, fueld by the energy of hundreds upon hundreds of proud ST local supporters. This one appeared uncomfortbale from the start for DRS who looked weak defensively in this one, playing for the first time all year on concrete rather than the usual dirt and grass, or perhaps turf, on Long Island.
After a very quiet top of the first, Shaarei's leadoff man, Levi, hit a booming double that ad to played off the wall. Eventually scoring on an RBI triple by cleanup hitter Sekal (nickamed "blackshirt"), ST had the early 1-0 lead to put DRS on their toes. Unfortunately, the bats stayed quiet for DRS long into this one.
In the third inning things got a little more interesting as ST started by getting runners on first and third with nobody out. An RBI groundout put the stars up 2-0 and later in the inning, it looked to be even more on a somewhat "contraversial" call at the plate: Another groundball to third base had Akiva Aryeh look the runner back to the bag as he made the throw across the diamind for the second out. But ST took a big gamble and sent their speedster, Sokal 2, nikcnamed "white shirt" darting for the plate. Upon recieving the throw from Aryeh, Aaron Erlich, a very high IQ ballplayer who knows the game more than his coaches, threw a bullet to the plate where the runner, who didnt slide presumably due to the concrete nature of the field. Jon "Ben" Kazlow made a swift tag and Umpire Steve made the out call, to the outrage of the home team. Steve has been a rock of an ump in this league and had no problems holding his ground against the home squad. Still, ST had a 2-0 lead.
In what many claimed was a "makeup call" DRS shortsop Avi Greenberg hit a hard chopper to third that was booted by ST. Greenberg, trying to start a rally for DRS who had been flustered by ST's pitching, looked to slide in (OUCH!) safely under the tag at second base, but was ruled out by Umpire Steve. Again, DRS went down in order.
After tacking on another run, Benny Miller, who pitched wonderfully striking out 4 and giving up just 1 earned run got his bench up and excited for the final three outs of what very well could have been the last three outs of his, and the rest of the senior class', softball careers. With some newfound inspiration, DRS veterans and rookies alike were up and cheering for their team, despite having being NO-HIT for 6 innings and being heavily outnumbered by ST faithful. In fact, DRS hadnt scored for a consecutive 13 innnings going back three games! Could they turrn it around in the final inning of theirfirst round playoff game?
Shaarei was confident they would pull out the victry and there was no reason to believe DRS would take it away from them. Until, Noah Rhine, who has been clutch all season and leads the league in walks with 10, began with a towering drive to center field that sailed over the center fielder's head. With Rhine's speed, he was able to race around the bases without a throw, making it a 3-1 game and injecting energy and life into the hearts of his team.Avi Greenberg, hit a hard grounder to the third base hole, but it was beatifully scooped up and thrown on a laser across the diamond for the out. At this time, the phones started to come out for the ST fans as the home squad was only two outs away.
However, fast-budding, star-second baseman, Nathaniel Simintov, followed it up with a drive to almost the same spot of the park Rhine had hit to that had him racing to third with a stand up triple to give ST a little bit of a nerves. Aaron Erlich, who has been described by Coach Ash as, "One of the greatest students of the game" put together a whopping ten pitch at-bat that results in a booming double over the left fielder's head.
The energy in the building was totally swapped in a matter of minutes. The DRS dugout was shouting with glee in their rally-caps while ST was looking flustered. Still, with the tying run at second and only one out, ST had a 3-2 lead. A groundout to the shortstop had Erlich moving to third but DRS had just one out to work with.
Up came the Watman twins. In a lengthy at bat, Noah, hit a drive to left field that surely would have tied the game, but knicked an over-hanging tree that ruled the play dead. The bad luck didnt affect eh sturdy Watman who who confidently took a very close 3-2 pitch for ball 4. He was fllowed by Daniel who had struck out looking earlier in the game. However, ST pitcher Beta, fell behind 3 balls to 0 strikes and ultimately walked the second Watman twin to load the bases.
With the game on the line and the go ahead runner at second, Jon Kazlow was due up with two outs and his team down by a run. The first pitch was a called strike The second pitch was fouled back. The pressure was mounting. The DRS bench cheered even louder. What happened next was utterly stunning; Kazlow muscled what was the farthest hit ball of his career, again over the head of the CF Sekal's head, CLEARING THE BASES and sending the DRS bench into a frenzy. DRS had taken a 5-3 lead. The only sound in the park that minutes earlier filled with confident ST supporters, was the sound of the roaring Wildcats celebrating one of the greatest rallies in post season history. According to MYHSALstats.com, it was the first time a team losing by 3 runs or more in the last inning scored 5 runs to take the lead in league history.
But ST didnt go quietly and DRS study pitcher Benny Miller walked the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh. Suddenly, the Shaarei fans were just as loud as DRS had been in the top of the inning. With their best hitter up, and the tying runs on, Benny threw a first pitch changeup that got Blackshirt swinging way out in front and off balance. To the dismay of the home crowd, the next pitch was hit on a sharp grounder was hit straight to DRS second baseman Simintov. He stepped on the bag for the first out and fired in to first for the double play!
In what was described by a season-ticket-holding DRS supporter and her son as "the most miraculous comeback I've ever seen" DRS got the final out on a groundball to complete the win. The team sprinting on the field in a mob, celebrating in total elation. Coach Ash reminisced of the season they had beaten ST in the finals, when DRS had come back from two runs down in the 12th inning of the first round against hometown rival MAY. "Every championship team has a win like this. Just a magical day here. You could feel the energy and excitement" he said.
It was a momentous victory for the visitng Wildcats and just another brilliant chapter in the rivalry between DRS and ST. Should they take home the ultimate prize, this was defintely an appropriate way for the storybook to begin.