Mathew Keller wears a lot of hats at Clinton High School. Aside from his current gig as the Governors’ head baseball coach, Keller also runs the Clinton boys soccer and wrestling programs as well.
But last week he added another title to his resume — groundskeeper — and without his landscaping talents, the Governors might still be waiting to open their 2017 baseball season.
Because of the recent snowstorm that dumped almost a foot of snow on the Bronx, Clinton’s home field had been reduced to a quagmire, leaving it unplayable. So Keller and his team spent several hours last Thursday and a few more hours Friday removing snow and mud and manicuring the Governors’ home field in time for their season opener against Taft High School.
Turns out all that work was worth it as Clinton got a combined six strong innings from starting pitcher Rafael Romero and reliever Jose Taveras, while five different Governors drove in a run, as Clinton posted a 6-2 victory over Taft.
It was a solid effort for a team, Keller said, that hadn’t been able to practice on its field in more than two weeks.
“We came into this game cold,” he said. “We had been practicing inside for the past two weeks, so this was our first time outside. We hadn’t seen live pitching in about three weeks. I mean it’s nice that we have indoor (batting) cages and indoor facilities to use, but nothing can compare to live pitching and being out on the field.
“So I expected a game like this, not too many hits. But we grinded it out, and it was a good first win.”
Clinton got on the board early with three runs in the bottom of the first on an RBI infield single by Michael Rodriguez and a run-scoring single by Anshel Genao. The Guvs’ third run in the inning came courtesy of a Taft throwing error.
Clinton then upped its lead to 4-0 in the second after Michael Gerez’ sacrifice fly plated Edwin Peralta.
Taft scored a run in the third on an RBI groundout by Raudy Alberto, but Clinton responded with two more runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Eddy Garcia and a two-out RBI single from Fabian Castillo for a commanding 6-1 lead after five innings.
Taft did throw a minor scare into Clinton in the seventh inning when the Golden Eagles scored a run and had the bases loaded off reliever Kenny Sanchez. However, the revived pitcher settled down to work his way out of the jam, and the Governors had their opening day win.
“Kenny hasn’t pitched much in the last four years, so we figured this would be a good game to get him, and it worked out,” Keller said. “I think it will build his confidence a lot by getting out of that bases-loaded jam there in the seventh.”
Clinton, which went 7-9 last season, has seen a large roster turnover from last year. However, it’s one Keller believes will keep Clinton in the playoff hunt this season.
“We’re really hoping everyone is going to contribute this year,” he said. “I think we have a pretty deep pitching staff, so I hope that helps us out in the long run. We’re expecting to be competitive and compete in every game. That’s our first goal, and long-term, we want to make the playoffs.
Keller wants his team to “play the game the right way.”
“We want to work hard every game, and be an aggressive team and steal as many bases as we can,” he said. “So that’s what we’re looking for — be aggressive, be smart and work hard. ”
Garcia, who made a dazzling, over-the-shoulder catch to end a Taft scoring threat in the fifth, likes the makeup of this Clinton team and its prospects for postseason play this season.
“We have a really good team this year. We’re really energetic and we expect big things,” Garcia said. “We just need everyone to make contributions every game.”