Whether he is in the George Washington dugout or not, suspended coach Steve Mandl plans to attend the PSAL Class A final against Tottenville tomorrow at MCU Park in Coney Island.
As Mandl awaits a decision on his lawsuit against the Board of Education and the PSAL that could allow him to return to action Saturday, his presence will loom over the game, both literally and figuratively, the way his jersey has hung in the background of every Trojans’ game this season. Mandl was suspended for allegedly recruiting a player.
Whoever the coach, it will not change the way George Washington plays. Interim head coach Nick Carbone said at the start of the season that the team would continue to play the way they always play. The Trojans will play the same team that bounced them in the semifinals last year.
“We’re looking for revenge because last year they eliminated us in the semis,” said George Washington catcher Nelson Rodriguez. “We just have to stay focused on what’s happening on the field and win the game.”
George Washington is playing for its second city championship since 2008. The Trojans have proven they can play with the pressure and ignore the distractions this season, while their legendary coach wages an endless battle with the PSAL. Mandl has contended that he was never given his due process right before he was suspended.
In the meantime, the Trojans’ went undefeated in league play this season in league play and swept Lehman in the semifinal. Lehman head coach Adam Droz that filed the complaint with the PSAL against Mandl, alleging that he recruited junior Fernelys Sanchez.
What gets lost in all the drama surrounding the ball game is the fact that Tottenville is playing its best ball of the season, handling Grand Street in the semifinals in two games.
“Obviously, we expect them to be all charged up and emotional,” Tottenville coach Tom Tierney Jr. said of GW. “That’s how they are in the regular season when we play so I’m sure this will be no different. We’re trying to control what we can control. If Coach (Mandl) comes back they are going to be a tough team to beat. If he doesn’t come back, they’re still going to be a real tough team to beat. There’s only certain things we can control so we try to get our kids to focus on what we can do.”
Tottenville is going to ride the arm of Michael Sullivan, who handcuffed Grand Street, and a rejuvenated offense led by Kevin Krause, a Stony Brook recruit. Krause missed 10 days at the end of the regular season with a broken toe but his return in the playoffs has taken pressure off his teammates and put another strong bat in the lineup. The result was 18 runs in the semifinals.
Both Carbone and Tierney, Jr. said that once the teams take the field and the first pitch is thrown, all the drama and context of the game will fade. Mandl said he has stayed away from playoff games because he doesn’t want to be accused of tampering or relaying signs.
“We’re all anxious for Coach Mandl to get back and I’d love to have him back for Saturday, I know the guys would love to have him back for Saturday,” Carbone said. “But at the same time, we’re preparing to play a great team and a great program on Saturday. We have to get ready to play. As much as all that stuff is swirling around, we have to prepare to win a championship.”