The formula was a simple one for American Studies as the Senators entered the final week of the regular season toting a 6-5 record — win twice in your final five games and your reward would be a spot in the Public School Athletic League postseason.
But it turned into a week that could try the patience of any coach, and it certainly did for 75-year-old first-year American Studies coach Pete Nizzari.
“Oh my God, what a week,” Nizzari said Sunday after he got the news his Senators had earned a playoff spot despite a 2-3 week. “We have the talent, but we just can’t finish games.”
Luckily for Nizzari, his Senators didn’t have to finish off its game with Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy as American Studies was handed a forfeit win when RKA could not play the Senators on Sunday due to a scheduling conflict. It would have been a meaningless game for RKA as the Tigers already had clinched a playoff spot, but the forfeit helped the Senators join the playoff field.
“Hey, we’ll take it,” Nizzari said. “The way the week was going for us, we’ll take it.”
That week included a road victory at first-place Evander, and confidence was high that American Studies would wrap up a postseason bid in short order. But the Evander win was followed by a painful 7-6 loss to Columbus, a game American Studies led 6-0 in the sixth inning. Later in the week, the Senators suffered a pair of one-run losses due to defensive breakdowns in a 3-2 loss to Columbus, followed by a 4-3 loss to Bronx Law & Government Sunday.
PSAL commissioner Bob Pertsas informed both Nizzari and RKA coach John Reingold they had to play their game before the playoff field could be finalized, and told Nizzari the game should be played following American Studies’ contest against Bronx Law, which started at 9 a.m., Sunday. But when Reingold couldn’t make the hastily scheduled game, American Studies was granted the forfeit win — just enough to clinch the playoff spot.
“I don’t know what it is about us, we just seem to self-destruct late in games,” Nizzari said. “But I guess that’s baseball. What are you going to do? But we’re happy to be going to the playoffs.”
But even getting into the postseason was a case of good news/bad news for the Senators as Nizzari learned he will be without four of his top players — Casey Press, Ari Wigder, Nick Bliss and Jack Friedman — for their playoff game against Brooklyn Tech this week due to a school trip. Their absence will leave the Senators with just 13 players available for the game.
“Those kids are all going on a mandated school trip to Rhode Island, there’s nothing I can do about it,” Nizzari said. “Hey, this school is No. 1 in the state (in academics) for a reason. It’s academics first here, and all these kids are very bright kids.”
If undermanned American Studies can somehow get by Brooklyn Tech, they will have their full compliment of players back for a second-round playoff game. But that might be asking a lot of a young Senators team.
“I think when we are at full strength we can compete with anyone in the city,” Nizzari said.
“It’s great that we got into the playoffs but it’s tough to be going in without four of our starters.”