Lenahan, Madison shock Tottenville, advance to semis

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Before each game, Vinny Caiazza reminds his Madison baseball what last year’s group accomplished. He talks about their toughness and grit, what made them special. He doesn’t have to tell the Knights anymore.

They are starting to emulate that team, particularly after Tuesday’s 2-1 PSAL Class A quarterfinal upset over No. 2 Tottenville, 10th-seeded Madison’s second consecutive upending of a higher seeded team. The Brooklyn A East champion will meet No. 6 Monroe in the best-of-three semifinals series starting Friday.

“We’re getting there,” said junior right-hander Eddie Lenahan, who was brilliant, scattering 10 hits and striking out three in the complete-game victory. “We’re following the same path.”

Said Caiazza: “Very resilient, I didn’t think they had it in them.”

Junior outfielder Joe Calascione drove in two first-inning runs off Pirates (18-3) right-hander Rich Anderson and Lenahan, aided by the stellar defense played behind him, made it stand up. He stranded 10 base runners in all. He was bailed out in the fourth inning when his freshmen middle infield – Mike Fitzpatrick and Joseph Cali – turned a highlight-reel double play.

“He’s a bulldog,” Caiazza said. “As a pitcher or a player, I think that’s the best compliment you can get.”

Caiazza has seen his entire team take several positive strides recently. The season didn’t get off to a fast start, in part because of youth and inexperience. Caiazza graduated his entire starting lineup, brought in four transfer students from Catholic schools – Matt Ecock, Calascione, Anthony Frangello and Daniel Perez (who was suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons) – and starts three freshmen.

Madison nevertheless won its division, going 13-3. The Knights (16-3) had several morale-building victories, including wins over Telecommunications and Midwood. They also beat Staten Island power, McKee/Staten Island Tech, in a late-season non-league game.

Caiazza said the latest victory gave Madison confidence it could beat anyone entering the postseason. Then came the opening-round, one-run victory over Bayside and a come-from-behind, 4-3 effort in the second round over Grand Street Campus. Entering the tilt with Tottenville, Caiazza’s message was simple: “Don’t screw up.” No. 15 Morris lost, 6-1, against the Tots but allowed just three hits. They committed four errors.

“You can’t walk anybody and if you don’t play flawless defense, you’re not going to win,” he said. “Tottenville will put the ball in play and they will jump on your mistakes.”

Madison played a clean game and executed offensively and defensively against the Staten Island A champions. As a result, the Knights are back in the semifinals the season after losing in the city final. Nobody expected them to still be alive, not even the Knights.

“Everybody was shocked,” Lenahan said. “I don’t think anybody is going to believe this. We were the underdog in every game and we’ve showed everyone.”

When asked to sum of his feelings, Caiazza said: “Ecstatic, proud, validation because people still don’t believe Brooklyn baseball is that good. Now people will look at teams instead of the borough itself.”

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