The very next spring of 2015, the Forest Hills school moved up to the Queens “AA” West division, and went 2-13.
They subsequently returned to the Queens “A” Central league, going a combined 27-4 in league play over the last two seasons, highlighted but an undefeated 15-0 mark in the spring of 2017, a dream season that ended in this past Sunday’s PSAL “A” Championship at the College of Staten Island, losing 9-6 to the South Bronx.
“I don’t think any coach ever expects an undefeated season because you know that, especially in baseball, things just happen,” said coach Freed, proud of a remarkable season and the direction his program is headed. “The word ‘undefeated’ didn’t creep in until we went 11-0, 12-0, then you start thinking about it being possible.”
In Sunday’s Championship affair, which pitted top-ranked South Bronx against second-seeded Metro Campus, both teams came out with a plate full of nerves, recording a couple of errors each in the opening innings.
South Bronx eventually took hold of the team, entering the bottom of the sixth with a 9-2 lead, however, Metro Campus fought like hell to make the final inning interesting.
And that, they did.
Metro Campus had their first five runners reach base safely, and ended up scoring four runs in the sixth, and even had the tying run on deck before South Bronx exited the inning limiting the damage.
Though the Queens-based club still lost by three, their show of fight nearly resulted in a game-changing display.
“It’s a testament to these kids right here,” Freed said, not just speaking of the game, but the program’s about-face from last place just two years ago. “They had a tough year going 2-13. The record is one thing, but the way that they handled that year is something else.
“We were playing teams like Bayside high school, perennial playoff teams, multiple championship winning teams, but they took it in stride, and when their time came, they were up to the challenge,” he added.
Over the course of the season, Metro demonstrated themselves as the premier offensive squad in the division as well, winning games by scores like 23-4, 17-4, and 16-2.
Freed attributes this to the team’s hard work at practice and tendency to never quit on at-bats. In fact, the team’s trademark has been to extend at-bats to about eight or nine pitches, effectively wearing out the opposing team’s pitchers.
“We spend a lot of time at batting cages working on different things,” coach said. “The thing that I try to preach is to stay aggressive with two strikes. We are very dangerous with two strikes, teams have a hard time putting us away. If we strike out I tell guys to keep their heads up because those long at bats are great for us.”
One of the key players on the team became starting catcher Ryan Morales, who previously couldn’t qualify academically to make the roster.
Freed said he had heard of Morales prior to even his freshman year, but the catcher didn’t come out either of the first two seasons because of grades. Morales came out as a junior in 2016, but Freed said that given the academic situation, which remained at the time, a tryout would serve as a waste of time for both sides.
Morales then guaranteed to be back for 2017, and he did just that.
“He did everything possible to get eligible for the spring semester of his senior year, whether it was night school, summer school, morning classes,” said Freed. “Because of that he’s going to graduate on time, he’s going to attend Queensborough Community College.
“He’s an example of why high school sports are important, and why I got into coaching,” he added.
“Freshman year I didn’t come to high school thinking I’d be on the team or anything like that,” Morales added. “My first two years I messed up, junior year I was getting it together. It was just a crazy ride all the way through.”
Starting centerfielder and freshman Isaiah Decias was put in a big spot as a true freshman on a highly regarded “A” level varsity squad, but overcame the initial nerves to play a significant role on the club.
Decias spoke to the team’s brotherhood, which he says developed over the three-month period at a very rapid rate.
“It was fun and exciting because for three months you’re not only building a team, but you’re building a family environment,” said the outfielder. “A lot of players on the team didn’t really talk much in the beginning of the year, but now during practice you don’t see us just practicing, you see us talking to each other about everything.”
This season, the team was led in large part by starting pitcher Andrew Torres, who had several quality displays in his senior year, which ended with Freed referring to the ace as the “Team MVP.”
Torres, who will join Morales at Queensborough, also spoke to the epic ride of a season, as well as his constant reminder to coach Freed that he was passed over at the varsity level as a sophomore.
“Last year was a good season, but this year was a great season,” he said. “It was a tough ride but it was fun. We’ll all remember this.”