Happy home opener

Watch out for wounded Tigers — they still pack a punch

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If John Reingold had one concern coming into the start of the baseball season, it was numbers. 

Not in how many numbers his Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy Tigers could put on the scoreboard this year. It was more about how many players he’d have to go to battle with this season.

Injuries have kept his roster a little on the lean side, so as the 2017 season opened late last week, Reingold wasn’t sure what to expect.

“We’re paper-thin right now because of injuries,” he said.

Those roster numbers didn’t get any better in the Tigers’ opener against the IN-Tech Academy when stellar freshman centerfielder Stiven Mendez went down with a sprained ankle trying to leg out an inside-the-park homer in the fourth inning. 

But the Tigers got solid pitching from starter Healy Tureski and reliever Jacob Auerbach, and RKA pounded out 11 hits and scored nine runs in the first two innings to overcome an early two-run deficit as the Tigers rolled to an impressive 12-5 victory over IN-Tech.

After the victory, though, the concern was for Mendez, who lost his footing rounding second base leading to the injury.

“He was trying to dig to get four,” Reingold said. “It was a nightmare because he had such a beautiful game.”

That he did. Mendez turned in two superlative plays before going down. In the third inning he gunned down IN-Tech’s Salvatore Ventola at the plate when he tried to score from second on Diego Lebron’s single to center. 

Then one inning later, Mendez ran down a long shot to deep right centerfield to rob IN-Tech’s Amin Calcano of an extra base hit. Mendez then suffered his injury in the bottom of the fourth.

IN-Tech jumped on RKA for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning off Tureski, but the Tigers quickly regrouped and proceeded to pound IN-Tech pitching for four runs in the second and five more in the third to build a comfortable cushion after a shaky start. RKA was never threatened the rest of the game.

Mendez led the Tigers, driving in three runs. Peter Rondinone added a pair of RBIs while Caleb Auerbach, Josh Kenny, Ulysses Luciano and Tureski each plated one run. 

Tureski worked four strong innings to pick up the win, allowing three runs, while Jacob Auerbach tossed two innings of one-run ball.

Tigers pitching combined for 11 strikeouts and fielders were credited with seven putouts.

Reingold think this RKA team may be better than the one that reached the playoffs last season.

“The chemistry is very good,” he said. “The kids like each other and they like practicing hard. They put the work in and they genuinely like being around each other.”

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