Suspension fuels GW-Lehman semifinal

Interim George Washington baseball coach Nick Carbone and his squad have to look no farther than the other team's dugout to find motivation for their Public Schools Athletic League semifinal series against Lehman that begins Friday at 7 p.m.

Friday's opener will match George Washington against a Lehman squad coached by Adam Droz, who filed the charges that led to George Washington coach Steve Mandl’s one-year suspension for allegedly recruiting a former Lions player.

Suffice it to say, Droz is about as popular with the Trojans as someone in a Red Sox t-shirt at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s a motivating factor for us,” Carbone said. “Coach Mandl is part of our family. He’s our coach. When someone makes false accusations, that is a motivating factor.”

While hitting, fielding and pitching will determine which team survives the best-of-three series and advances to the Class “A” title game, it’s the off-the-field controversy that led to Mandl’s suspension that has added some spice to this weekend's games at MCU Park in Brooklyn.

“It would mean a lot to us as a family to beat Lehman,” Carbone said. “We’re a family. We spend so much time together and we work so hard all day and every day and when someone falsely accuses one of your family members of something he didn’t do, to get that redemption on the field, that’s a great thing.”

On May 13, 2010, Droz filed a complaint with the PSAL that Mandl had approached one of his players, Fernelys Sanchez, about leaving Lehman and coming to George Washington to play baseball for the Trojans. The PSAL investigated the claim and ruled that Mandl had indeed recruited Sanchez and on Feb. 15 it suspended Mandl for one season.

Since then, Mandl has vehemently denied that he recruited Sanchez and tried in vain to get a Temporary Restraining Order that would reinstate him as coach. He will appear again in court on June 6.

With Mandl gone, Carbone led the Trojans to an undefeated league record and the top seed in the PSAL, where they now will meet Lehman. Carbone said it’s almost “like it was meant to be” that this matchup is happening, having seen the possibility when he did a mock bracket.

Carbone isn’t afraid to label the suspension as a rallying point for his team, but doesn't want his team to focus solely on it.

“Our goal is to win a championship and we have to be able to separate the off the field stuff from on the field,” Carbone said. “We’ve talked and it’s addressed. We know we have to throw strikes and play baseball, and we have to do certain things successful.”

In the Lions' camp, Droz avoided the subject, saying that it’s all about his team. He said his team is excited about an opportunity to reach the final and has its own motivation to pull an upset as the No. 4 seed in the tournament.

“I think our team has been playing very well,” Droz said. “We’re the kind of team that doesn’t give up easily and we’ll keep coming at you.”

When Mandl last appeared in court on May 19, he brought his jersey with him in his car hoping to be on the field. Instead, there’s only one chance left for him to coach again this season, albeit a very small chance, and that would be the city title game on June 10.

For that to happen, the Trojans will have to survive a three-game series that promises to challenge them physically and mentally.

“They ripped the family apart and the kids are upset their father is being accused of something that is ridiculous,” Mandl said. “I appreciate it but want them to go out and play baseball.”