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Writer’s Choice: Top Five PSAL Baseball Teams for 2012

Spring has arrived and so has the Public Schools Athletic League's baseball season. And, just like every other year, the season begins with specualtion about which teams will be there at the end. Here are my top five PSAL baseball clubs for 2012 with last year's regular season record in parentheses.

5. Benjamin Cardozo Judges (16-0) — Major League draft prospect Adrian Castano, who last season was the only non-senior in the PSAL to rank in the top five in wins, strikeouts and earned run average, gives Cardozo a true ace. He'll be joined by Connor Doyle, who last year at Townsend Harris batted .558 and spun an earned run average of 1.71. Five-tool senior Diego Gonzalez is poised to lead the offense and possibly earn himself a Division I scholarship. The Judges clearly rule Queens.

4. James Madison (12-4) — Madison, which last reached the championship game in 2008, went 12-4 last season and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Look for the deep and experienced Knights to return with a vengeance this year. Seniors Michael Fitzpatrick and Joseph Cali, who last season had an ERA of 1.44, will hold down the pitching staff, while senior Matthew Zalon anchors the lineup. The Knights, who reached the semifinals a couple of seasons ago, are poised for another deep playoff run.

3. Tottenville Pirates (17-1) — Tottenville, which won the city championship in 2010, graduated many of its key players from last season's title runner-up club. However, the Pirates have a pair of hard-throwing, senior pitchers in lefty Michael Sullivan, who had an ERA under 1.00, and Vin Aiello. The Pirates graduated most of its heavy hitters, but speedy outfielder Anthony Capo, who last season batted .350, will help fill the void. The Pirates have gone 17-1 in each of the last two seasons and reached the finals both times.

2. Grand Street Campus Wolves (15-1) — Perennial contender Grand Street has one of its best teams in years. The Wolves, who haven't missed the playoffs since 1998, return almost their entire squad from last season, including slugging backstop Ernesto Lopez and fleet shortstop Jose Cuas; he batted a sizzling .620 with 19 stolen bases in 2011. Furthermore, senior Geraldo Gonalez can dominate at the plate or on the mound. He ranked in the Brooklyn A East's top five in both hits and strikeouts in 2011.

1. George Washington Trojans (16-0) — The defending champs return a ton of talent, including seniors Nelson Rodriguez, a hot catching prospect who last season batted .500, and Randy Rodriguez. However, pitching will be the key, as senior Kevin Torres anchors a young and potentially formidable staff. Incidentally, legendary coach Steve Mandl returns to the dugout after a one-year, league-imposed suspension. The only downside: Stud center fielder Fernelys Sanchez is out long term with an ankle injury.

Five to Watch: James Monroe Eagles (13-3), William Bryant Owls (13-3), Beacon Blue Demons (12-4), Herbert H. Lehman Lions (14-2), John Adams Spartans (13-3).

Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who has reported on New York City high school sports since 2000. He has covered high school basketball, baseball, football and soccer, and prep championship games at Madison Square Garden, Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium.


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Updated Thursday, Mar 29, 2012