Lawrence Woodmere Academy is enjoying another successful campaign on the baseball diamond and could be destined to continue a rivalry with Brooklyn Friends in this week’s playoffs.
Behind a strong 1-2 punch on the mound and an aggressive top of the lineup, the Tigers won seven of their first eight games against PSAA foes and had a chance at the No. 1 playoff seed. “The kids have worked really hard up to this point, so I don’t want them to lose focus,” coach Mike Cohn said. “If we win our last two regular-season games, we’re the No. 1 seed. While that would be great, I had to remind the kids the No. 1 seed has won the championship only once in the last four years.”
LWA’s last title came in 2010 when it defeated Brooklyn Friends. The result flipped the following year, and last spring the Tigers fell in the semis to Brooklyn Friends. And, the lone blemish on this year’s record? Well, you get the picture. “I think the top four teams in our league are evenly matched,” Cohn said. “We could see Brooklyn Friends in the finals or the semis, or maybe not at all.”
With a roster consisting of five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen, Cohn said the Tigers are getting contributions from every grade level. “It’s really nice,” Cohn said.
Freshman shortstop Jake Ellowitz, a returning starter, has flashed a tremendous glove and arm takes pride in defense, Cohn said. He’s also the No. 2 hitter and helps set the offensive table along with senior leadoff hitter Benny Schulman. Ellowitz is batting .538 — same as Schulman — and has 20 stolen bases.
Schulman, who patrols either center or right field, put in a lot of offseason work, Cohn said, and on pace to surpass a big sophomore year he had in 2011. He has 21 steals and 17 runs scored. “He makes great contact and gets out of the box really quick,” Cohn said. “He beats out infield grounders for singles.”
Where Schulman uses his speed to track down flies in the outfield depends on LWA’s starting pitcher. Senior standout Jakob Cayne, a five-year veteran of the program, plays center on non-pitching days. Cayne is the ace of the staff with five wins, a 3.27 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 33 innings. He’s also driven in 19 runs. “Jakob’s always been a really good player,” Cohn said.
Wesley Gladstein pitches and plays right field. The 6-foot-3 sophomore has three wins on the mound and relies on a fastball with late movement. Junior Michael Levitt has also worked some innings in addition to playing the outfield and several infield spots. Senior Bryan Ruiz-Diaz is a three-year starter in left, senior Chris Liebenberg starts at second base, and senior Cody Schwab splits first with junior Matt Irizarry. The latter also works behind the plate with freshman Nathan Cupidore. Another freshman, Jordyn Berry, has shared third with Levitt.
“Our goal is to win out,” Cohn said.