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Kushner Cobras Victorious in Columbus

The Kushner Cobras captured the high school baseball Jewish World Series this past week in Columbus, Ohio at the Columbus Baseball Invitational Tournament. The three-day tournament was held on May 17-19 and featured high school athletes from eight different Jewish day schools from states such as New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Illinois and California.

After leaving Livingston, NJ at 9 a.m., the Cobras’ bus got to Columbus, Ohio at about 7 p.m. The boys checked into their dorm rooms at Capital University and quickly headed to the baseball complex to eat a quick dinner followed by their first game of the tournament at 8:30 p.m. The game was against Fuchs Mizrachi from Ohio, and the Cobras found themselves on the losing end of a 10-6 game. With that loss, it now meant that the Cobras had to win three straight games against three of the best Jewish day schools in the country in a span of 30 hours. Gabe Maron pitched five strong innings for the Cobras and set the tone for what would be an impressive stretch for the Kushner pitching staff.

The Cobras’ first obstacle was the Frisch Cougars from Paramus, NJ. Frisch called themselves “the team to watch this year,” and had already defeated Kushner 6-0 in early April during regular season play. The Cobras took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Koby Stadtmauer in the fourth inning. Frisch scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning and found themselves up 3-1 heading into the 7th and three outs away from victory. Shlomo Hirschey led off the seventh inning with a single for the Cobras and was followed by a line-drive single by Josh Degen. After a walk to Seth Wengrofsky, loading the bases with 0 outs, Sam Bernstein delivered an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2. After two consecutive strikeouts by Frisch, Ilan Slonim walked to tie the game 3-3. The game went into extra innings, and it was Kushner who prevailed in the battle of New Jersey teams 4-3. Sam Bernstein pitched six innings, allowing 0 earned runs. Seth Wengrofsky pitched two innings of scoreless relief to record the win. Degen, Hirschey and Sam Raab all finished with two hits each for the Cobras.

The next test Kushner faced was against defending national champion Ida Crown Jewish Academy Aces from Chicago, IL. The Aces team has been in the finals for the past three years and was looking for a fourth consecutive trip. Bernstein got the Cobras on the board in the 4th with an RBI single: a 1-0 lead. The Aces tied the game in the bottom of the 5th on two singles and a walk. Arthur Greenfield got the sixth inning started with a single, which was followed by a walk to Bernstein. Kushner now had first and second with no outs. After a double steal, Slonim made a beautiful suicide squeeze, and allowed Greenfield to score. This was followed by a second suicide squeeze by Stadtmauer, scoring Bernstein to take a 3-1 advantage. Leading the way offensively for the Cobras was Arthur Greenfield (1 hit, 1 BB, 1 SB, 2 runs scored) as well as Jonathan Kirsch (BB, Sac Bunt). Jakey Ostrove had a terrific game in the outfield and was a strong anchor for the stellar Kushner defense that only committed one error. Seth Wengrofsky pitched a complete game while striking out six and only giving up one run. Wengrofsky was challenged early and often by the hard hitting Aces team and found a way to get outs in the big spots time and time again.

The championship game of the Jewish World Series was against another New Jersey team and familiar opponent, Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC). Both teams entered the game after playing a doubleheader the day before. After two thrilling low scoring games in a row where every pitch and every batter was a crucial play, Kushner controlled the title game from the start by scoring four runs in the top of the first inning with hits by Degen, Wengrofsky, Raab and Greenfield. While leading 6-3 after five innings, Kushner put the game away for good with an RBI double from Stadtmauer and an RBI laser single by Greg Artman; the Cobras took an 8-3 lead. Kushner finished the game with 11 hits and a 9-3 victory. The fourth and final well-pitched game of the World Series for Kushner was thrown by Ilan Slonim. Slonim threw a complete game, limiting TABC to four hits and two earned runs. Wengrofsky took home the series MVP honors.

Obviously thrilled by the win, the Cobras found time for levity. “We had to travel all the way to Ohio to beat Frisch and TABC?” they joked. True, but the win still felt great.

The roster for the 2015 championship team is as follows: Greg Artman (junior), Gabe Maron (sophomore), Arthur Greenfield (junior), Ilan Slonim (senior), Shlomo Hirschey (sophomore), Josh Degen (senior, co-captain), Sam Bernstein (sophomore), Harry Stiel (eighth grade), Jordan Sheris (eighth grade), Seth Wengrofsky (senior, co-captain), Scott Tajfel (senior), Koby Stadtmauer (sophomore), Sam Raab (sophomore), Jonathan Kirsch (freshman) and Jakey Ostrove (junior). The coaches are Larry Canales (head coach), Dan Distasio, Mike Ocejo, and David Ptalis. Kushner’s Athletic Director is Rabbi Richard Kirsch.

By Larry Caneles

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