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Friday, January 22, 2021
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(Courtesy of TBO) “Somebody pass the Tums!”

That was what Teaneck’s coaches and fans were thinking in the top of the seventh inning at Overpeck Park, as they watched their team desperately struggle to hold the 6-2 lead they brought into the inning. A seeming eternity after Jason Gamss took the mound on a mission to get three outs and send everyone home happy, it was not Gamss, but rather Isaac Kantowitz who pitched the final out of the game, a slowly hit grounder between the mound and first that Kantowitz managed to grab and fire to Gamss at first to secure the 6-4 victory over visiting Tenafly.

That final out came after a miniature odyssey of misplayed balls—missed grounders, misplayed foul flies and other defensive woes—that helped Tenafly plate two runners and put the tying runs on second and third with one out to go. Mercifully, after intentionally walking Tenafly’s cleanup hitter and star Kento Miyakodani to load the bases, Kantowitz bore down on Justin Kim and got the game ending grounder.

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TBO’s pitching once again shined, overcoming poor defense to carry the team to victory. Tenafly jumped out to an early lead in this game. Ryan Buchsbayew started again for TBO, throwing one solid inning. Buchsbayew struck out the first man he faced, but then issued walks to the next two. After striking out Miyakodani for the second out, it looked like Buchsbayew was out of the inning when he got Kim to hit the ball on the ground. But the play instead went for a two-run error. Buchsbayew limited the damage by striking out James Naidritch to end the inning, with TBO in a 2-0 hole.

Teaneck got one back in the bottom of the first. Abie Fields led off with a walk, but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Buchsbayew. Akiva Rotenberg then walked, pushing Buchsbayew to second. He later scored on a throw after a groundout to short by Gamss.

Rotenberg came on to pitch in the second, and he was dominant. Rotenberg fanned 10 Tenafly batters in his three innings of work—including four Ks in the second inning, when the first batter, Nate Libien, looked at a strike three that skipped away from the catcher, allowing him to reach. Rotenberg allowed no runs.

TBO mounted a threat in the bottom of the second, loading the bases thanks to a leadoff single by Joey Weisberg, a fielder’s choice by Jared Reich and walks to Joshie Rabitz and Zach Rothschild. But Tenafly starting pitcher Jaden Croce got Fields to ground out hard to second base to quash the threat. Less fortunate in the third, Croce saw Rotenberg and Gamss both reach base on back-to-back errors, with Rotenberg later scoring the tying run on another single by Weisberg, who finished 3 for 3.

TBO grabbed a 5-2 lead in the fourth, mounting a two-out rally to bring home three runs. Rothschild got it started with a walk. Fields then singled, and after Rothschild advanced and scored on wild pitches, Buchsbayew walked. Fields also scored on a wild pitch, and then Rotenberg delivered the game’s biggest hit, a double to right-center that scored Buchsbayew.

Teaneck later added a critical insurance run in the sixth, when Rabitz reached on a dropped third strike, stole second and then both advanced to third and scored on wild pitches by Miyakodani.

Meanwhile, Rabitz relieved Rotenberg in the fifth inning and continued his string of strong outings. Rabitz retired the side 1-2-3 in the fifth, thanks in part to a great scoop by Gamss at first on a throw from shortstop. In the sixth, Rabitz allowed a leadoff single to centerfield by Devin Knause, but CF Michael Greenberg tracked down the ball and nailed Knause at second on a strong throw to Reich. Despite issuing walks to the next two he faced—thanks in part to some questionable ball-strike calls—Rabitz struck out Nadritch and got Libien to ground back to the box to end the inning.

Then came the nearly disastrous seventh. Gamss took the mound, and again his stuff looked great. He issued a leadoff walk to Troy Knause on several very close pitches, but then got Aidan Toboroff to strike out for the first out. Then, the wheels came off for Teaneck. Gamss issued another questionable walk, and then got Croce to ground out…or so everyone thought. The ball went for another error, however, allowing Troy Knause to score. Gamss then got Jackson Chang to ground out to Rabitz at third, and Teaneck was an out away. Up strode Tenafly’s last hope, Devin Knause. The best Knause could muster off of Gamss was a string of foul pop-ups. Yet again, however, Teaneck failed to catch those balls, giving Devin Knause new life over and over until Gamss walked him. Coaches David Greenberg and Josh Buchsbayew had seen enough, and removed a clearly frustrated Gamss, handing the ball to Kantowitz to get the last out. Kantowitz came through.

Teaneck held a “closed-door” meeting after the game, no doubt to discuss what went wrong that almost cost them the win. Asked to comment, Coach Buchsbayew said, “We like to keep these things in-house, sorry.” The look on the coaches’ and players faces, however, told the whole story.

“We can’t do this, we just can’t,” Greenberg said later. “Am I glad we won? Of course. But the boys know they need to play better, smarter defense. If we don’t, we’re not going to get where we need to go. We will be practicing between now and Monday. Hopefully we will get this straightened out.”

Teaneck now sits atop the NEBAS 14U Division with a 4-2 record in the 2020 Fall Travel Baseball league. Teaneck hosts Paramus Monday night at Overpeck, a rematch of another game the TBO squad led, but let get away.

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