In the last practice before what would be their final game of the season, players on the John F. Kennedy baseball team felt loose. Athletes and coaches joked around even though everyone was focused on another playoff run and the belief that this team could last at least a few rounds.
Senior center fielder Steven Rodriguez said that is the day he will remember most when he looks back on his three seasons with the JFK Knights.
“Just being around the guys, I’ll really miss that,” he said. “It was just a fun day. That day, we seemed ready to go.”
But 11th-seeded JFK, which draws athletes from the 7 schools on the Kennedy campus, was upset in the first round of the PSAL A Division playoffs by No. 22 John Bowne High School (Queens) 6-2 at home on May 21. The Knights gave up runs in each of the first four innings and trailed the entire game.
JFK finished the regular season 13-3, the school’s best regular-season record since 2009, but failed to win a postseason game for the first time since 2003.
“We failed to play to our potential, and our bats were sleeping the day,” Rodriguez said. “It was a real letdown because we know we are a better team than we came out and played like. It was real disappointing walking off the field for the last time.”
The Knights had an inauspicious start, as a dropped third strike allowed John Bowne’s leadoff man to reach base. He later scored.
“People got mad instead of picking each other up,” Rodriguez said. “We got down on ourselves and everybody started giving each other that look like, ‘Come on, this could be it.’”
Richard Cabassa was forced into catching duty because Yonathan Marinez was out with the flu. Marinez texted coach Al Torres after the game, telling him how bad he felt that he let the team down. Torres said the team could have used him, but that it was not his fault.
“It’s a team effort,” Torres said. “Someone had to pick up the slack.”
Cabassa, normally a pitcher, was catching for only the second time in his career. He had difficulty blocking balls in the dirt, and John Bowne capitalized by stealing 11 bases.