About a week or so before the start to the season, Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy head coach John Reingold struck an optimistic tone when he talked about how his Tigers team would shape up this season.
Offensively and defensively, RKA looked to be in good shape. The one area of concern for Reingold was whether he would have enough pitching to put the Tigers over the top. But after allowing just four runs in their first two games — both RKA victories — it seemed Reingold’s fears about his baseball squad were unfounded.
But then last Thursday happened, and those nagging questions were back as RKA’s pitching went off the rails allowing six walks, two hit batters and a pair of hits in an eight-run third inning that ended in a 13-7 loss to Columbus.
“I was excited about this team, but I prefaced it by saying pitching was going to be a question mark,” Reingold said. “We don’t have our two top-of-the-rotation guys from last year because they graduated. So I was hoping some of the other guys would come along, but it’s been a little slow. So yes, pitching remains a question mark for us.”
RKA finished the week with a 2-1 record after knocking off Columbus 6-2 earlier in the week. They rebounded from the loss to Columbus to rout Stevenson 12-2 last Saturday.
But Reingold knows his pitching is going to have to become more consistent if the Tigers are to be major players in the Public School Athletic League this season. There can’t be a repeat of that ugly eight-run inning again this season.
“Do we really have to go back over that inning again?” Reingold said with a laugh. “The thing that bothered me most was that my two seniors, Josh Kenny and Julio Paca Jr., couldn’t record one out. That inning was kind of mind-blowing for me. They just couldn’t find the plate.”
But a silver lining from that loss could be that Reingold just may have found a second dependable arm to go along with No. 1 starter Richie Gonzalez — freshman Jacob Schmieder, who had never pitched before last week. Schmieder came on in that third inning with runners on second and third and none out, recording three straight outs to end the bleeding for RKA.
He then allowed an unearned run in the fourth before holding Columbus scoreless in the fifth inning by the time Stiven Mendez took over in the sixth.
“I knew he had a live arm, but he hadn’t even had a sniff of pitching this year,” Reingold said. “I thought I would do it next year. It was real nice finding Jacob. I liked his composure. He wanted the ball, he wasn’t scared while the seniors looked very hesitant and very tentative, and that’s what bothered me more than the walks and the final result. So if there was one positive coming out of that day, it was that Jacob looked pretty good.”
Reingold plans to give his new-found arm a start this week against Roosevelt and hopes with another strong performance he will feel comfortable having two dependable starters in Gonzalez and Schmieder. He’ll need them as this season the Bronx AA West Division is loaded with premier teams.
“I think the West Division is a lot stronger than the East,” Reingold said. “Bathgate is clearly the class of the East Division. But our division is going to be very tough. American Studies (4-1) is going to be good, and Evander (4-1) is going to be good as well. Our division is stacked.”
Offense has not been a problem for the Tigers this season, routinely piling up runs. Even in their loss to Columbus, RKA managed to plate eight runs.
“We’ve scored more than enough,” Reingold said. “We scored 12 (Saturday) against Stevenson, we scored eight Thursday, we scored six against Columbus on Tuesday and then we scored seven on opening day (versus IN-Tech). So we put up enough runs. My only concern is how well we’ll pitch.”
And those fears just may have been allayed somewhat now.