- Last Updated: 3:48 AM, March 29, 2012
- Posted: 1:57 AM, March 29, 2012
Jeffrey Ledesma pitched out of a major jam. An inning later, Jesus Medina came one strike shy.
In a nutshell, that was the difference in Norman Thomas’ 5-2, come-from-behind win in the two teams’ PSAL Manhattan A East baseball opener Wednesday afternoon on Randall’s Island.
“That was a big momentum shift,” Thomas first-year coach Luis Monell said after his first league victory. “As soon as Jeffrey struck out the side with those guys on, we knew a big inning was on our way.”
Indeed, after Ledesma, Norman Thomas’ ace right-hander, struck out the side with runners on second and third in the home third, Paul Garcia and Manuel Tejeda had back-to-back two-run, two-strike, two-out hits in the top of the fourth. Neither team scored again.
“We had to set the tone for the season and this win would do that for us,” said Ledesma, who fanned 12 altogether, allowed seven hits and walked one.
Ledesma was brilliant from the third on. He retired the final six Rams (0-1) he faced and gave up just one hit over the last four frames. After struggling with his command early on, Ledesma found himself. He began getting his curveball over early in the count and putting Manhattan Center hitters away once he got ahead rather than messing around.
“It got me thinking if I keep pitching smart, we’ll win this game,” the senior righthander said. “I mixed in more off-speed pitches. Everything started clicking. After that, I was more confident, that’s for sure.”
Manhattan Center coach Edgar Leon credited Ledesma for his poise, but he also felt his team’s youth factored into the defeat. The Rams, ranked ninth in the PSAL by The Post, have a young team, with nine sophomores on the roster, three of whom started on Wednesday. In that fateful third, one of the sophomores – second baseman Michael Pena – was the middle of three punchouts, extending the strike zone on a breaking ball in the dirt.
“I feel our inexperience showed,” Leon said. “But we got them Friday and we’ll give it a go. Hopefully for us, the outcome will be different.”
Until the fourth, Medina was finding ways to work out of jams. He stranded five, three in scoring position, over the first three frames. The standout senior with Division I interest from George Mason and Sacred Heart looked to be slithering out of another one until Garcia waited on a 3-2 breaking ball and laced it down the left field line. Tejeda, an impressive junior first baseman, followed with a two-run single to center.
“That’s something we believe in, the inning is never over,” Monell said. “Two strikes, it doesn’t matter. … It’s all about making adjustments at the end.”
Thomas (1-0), unranked in The Post’s PSAL baseball rankings, feel it’s underrated. Rebuilding last year, the Tigers went 11-5 in Manhattan A East and pushed eventual city champion George Washington in the second round of the city playoffs. They returned much of that core, such as Ledesma, Garcia and third baseman Michael German.
Ledesma doesn’t mind.
“It’s good to be the underdog sometimes,” he said. “You can come from behind. Nobody expects it.”Follow @NYPostsports