At Poly Prep, winning never gets old. The Poly Prep Blue Devils won their fourth consecutive New York State Association of Independent Schools championship when they beat Rye Country Day School 8-3 at Manhattanville College on Wednesday. “It’s incredible,” said four-year starter Rob Calabrese. “It’s what I wanted freshman year, I got it and it’s the best feeling in the world right now. I’m going to just take this moment in right now. I can’t even explain it, it’s a great feeling.” This is not only the fourth consecutive championship for the Blue Devils, but they have been to the championship eight years in a row now and have won it six years in that span. “It’s special because we had two seniors that are four year starters,” manager Matt Roventini said of Calabrese and Matthew Zapata. “They were committed to the program for four years and they showed the young kids how to do it. It perpetuates a cycle. It’s really special. Winning never gets old.” What made this game even more special was the fact that this was perhaps their easiest win of the last four, which were usually decided by just one run, and they did it without their ace Morgan Gray on the mound.
“Absolutely this was easier,” Roventini said. “I’ll take this one everyday. These 1-0 games, I’m not a big fan of those. This one was easier. I wasn’t worried about getting down, I knew that we wouldn’t blink.” Things might have finished in an easy fashion, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t tense moments in the game. Poly fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and it could have been much worse had Calabrese, its catcher, not thrown out a runner to kill a rally in the second inning. That caught stealing seemed to wake the Blue Devils up a bit and starting pitcher Nick Storz smacked a home run on a 3-2 pitch to leadoff the bottom of the second to tie the game at 2-2. “He didn’t throw me any offspeed stuff in that at bat so I was ready for a fastball 3-2, he gave it to me and I just drove it,” Storz said. Storz gave up the lead again in the third as Rye went ahead 3-2, but Poly Prep tied it up in the bottom of the third and then broke the game open in the fourth. Christian Pellegrino got the big hit in the fourth, a bases-loaded single that drove in Anthony Prato and Calabrese to make it 5-3. As the Blue Devils found their stride offensively, Storz settled in on the mound. After he allowed two runs in the first and another in the third, he retired eight batters in a row. Roventini admitted that he thought about taking him out in the third, but wasn’t surprised to see his freshman settle down. “He battled, we knew he was running out of steam at the end, but he gave us everything that he could and that’s all we want,” he said. With their pitcher settled in with a lead, the Blue Devils added three more in the fifth. Prato got it started when he drove in Zapata with a single to left and then Patrick DeMarco drove in Isaiah Russell on a sac fly and Prato scored on an error by Rye’s catcher that made it 8-3. “Their pitcher was rattled, he was overthrowing a lot the entire game,” Pellegrino explained. “We knew coming into it that if we got him rattled that we would be successful and that’s what happened. He started overthrowing a lot and he left me a fastball that I put into left field.” No other players in Poly Prep’s history have ever won four championships. In addition to Calabrese and Zapata, who were four-year starters, Gray and Pellegrino were also on the team all four years.