By: Marvin Azrak
Eli Braha strode to the plate and took a deep breath as the circumstances collapsed on him. He’d readied himself for the moment he presided in earlier Sunday morning, warming up at 10 AM for what was a 4:30 PM encounter. All winter, he’d seen his brother and all-star Elliot captivate the Hillel faithful by leading the basketball team to the playoffs. But in his world, this was one he deeply envisioned after being blanked against YDE in the semifinals last year, who were seeking extras with the games locked at goose eggs apiece. “Kids, gamer,” said team president Sammy Saka. “He has ice in his veins and delivers us Hillel history.”
That he did, as with two outs and the winning run on second, Braha roped a single that split the gap between left and center to score a sliding Marty Cohen for the lone Heat run and offset a jubilant Heat team their fans into delirium. The 1-0 Hillel victory over the Thunder at Fireman’s field culminated an 11-0 perfect season for JV softball, gave them their first taste of glory since 2013, and avenged last season’s 2-0 semifinal defeat to YDE in the process. Entering the contest, YDE was appearing in their third straight World Series, having been ousted 5-2 by the MAY Eagles and then shutout 5-0 last year by the Maor Mavericks, respectively.
The two teams met on the concrete in Brooklyn, where the Heat bested the Thunder 11-9. However, it was evident this wouldn’t be a repeat of that as Mal Cohen of YDE and Marty Cohen of Hillel traded zeros throughout the contest, essentially pitching to a stalemate until its climax. The Thunder bats put dents in Marty’s armor early as Bruce Novick and Joe Harari singled to get them started but never were able to shatter it as Cohen rebounded with three straight outs to retire the threat. In the fifth, YDE loaded the bases with nobody out and having a 1-0 lead looked all but unequivocally bound to proceed.
Yosef Betesh was a freshman last season. If you’d ask him, he would tell you he’s not as passionate about softball as other sports. It was why when tryouts took place a few months back; coach Norman was fascinated by his improved play. “I think we have our third baseman,” and he couldn’t have been more right for Yosef, who dazzled in his play on both sides of the ball throughout the regular and postseason leading to him handling the hot corner in this big game. So when Elliot Chehebar stepped to the plate with the bases juiced, Yosef silently anticipated the pitch, which was a bouncer towards him, and he was able to start the 6-2 double play, preventing the run from scoring. In the next play, Betesh recorded the force out, and the threat was subdued with the contest still looking for a run.
It was hard to come by for the Hillel offense as Mal Cohen’s calamity demeanor and masterful pitching limited even baserunners from advancing into scoring position. Defensively for the Thunder, it was Bruce Novick who snagged the abundance of balls that came his way, some in acrobatic fashion.
But in the last of the seventh, a one-out single by Rishty led to Elliot’s heroics two batters later. “I just wanted to get the ball to the outfield. Mary’s pretty fast, and Mal is a great pitcher, so I had to be aggressive.” Elliot stuck the bat out on Cohen’s first offering, and it dunked into left-center field for the biggest hit of his career, allowing Marty to score and punctuate the perfect historic campaign. All wasn’t lost for YDE, though, as they partly salvaged things the very next day in the 4th of July care charity tournament at deal school.
With each team composed of outgoing 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, YDE bested Hillel 6-4 and defeated Magen David (Who upset reigning tournament champ Maor via forfeit) 4-2 on the back of ace and tournament MVP, 11th-grade pitcher Abe Esses. “We needed that winning feeling badly,” said Mal Cohen, whose RBI sac fly in the fifth against MDY stood up as the go-ahead run, “It’s been a crazy last 24 hours”.