Synagogue Softball League 2015 Champions: Congregation Beth Israel
Members of the Championship team include front row, from left are Rabbi David Posternock (catcher) and Randy Opotowsky (pitcher), Back row from left are Justin Napoli (3rd base) Henry Opotowsky (RightCenterField), ), Gerald Levin (1st Base), Jason Feder (2nd Base), Hilton Title – Team Captain (Right Field), Dylan Laventhal (LeftCenterField), Austin Kirzner (Shortstop), Cameron Kirzner (Left Field)
Not pictured: Rabbi Gabe Greenberg, Alvis Wilson, David Higgins and Lee Kirzner
by Hilton Title (Beth Israel’s Team Captain)
Beth Israel Synagogue won the 2015 New Orleans Synagogue Softball League (SSL) Championship on August 2, defeating defending 2014 SSL Champs Gates of Prayer Congregation in the Championship Game by the score of 7-6 at Wally Pontiff Playground.
This year’s SSL champs Beth Israel started the season 0-3 and then 1-4 at the halfway point of the regular season, before proceeding to storm back and go unbeaten for the rest of the season including the playoffs. In winning their second SSL Championship in the last three years, Beth Israel duplicated the same exact path two years ago, when Beth Israel also finished the regular season at 5-4-1, earning the 4th and final seed in the playoffs before going on to win the 2013 SSL Championship against the same foe — Gates of Prayer Congregation — in the finals. As the saying goes, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish!!”
Due to an unprecedented four weekends of rained-out games, the entire SSL playoffs involving the top 4 teams of the regular season were held on the same day. In the first semifinal game of the day pitting 2nd seed Shir Chadash Congregation vs 3rd seed Gates of Prayer, Gates of Prayer came from behind to win by the score of 22-7. After being behind 7-5 after 4 innings, Gates of Prayer erupted for 12 runs in the top of the 5th and then added 5 more runs in the 7th to cruise into the Finals vs the winner of the second semifinal game.
In the second semifinal game, matching 1st seed and Regular Season Champs Temple Sinai vs 4th seed Beth Israel, a very close game ensued. Beth Israel struck first to score all of their 5 runs in the top of 3rd inning, with Temple Sinai scoring all of their 4 runs in the bottom of the 4th. Neither team was able to score again, with Beth Israel prevailing by the final score 5-4 and advancing to the Finals to play Gates of Prayer in a rematch of 2013 for the championship.
In the Temple Sinai vs Beth Israel game, strong pitching performances were turned in by both teams’ respective pitchers — – Eli Ackerman for Temple Sinai and Beth Israel’s substitute pitcher Randy Opotowsky (for regular pitcher Lee Kirzner). Other standout players of note in this game were, for Temple Sinai: 3B Andy Weinstock went 3-3 at the plate with 1 RBI, Pitcher Eli Ackerman went 2-3 with 1 RBI; Beth Israel: LF Cameron Kirzner’s diving/sliding backhand catch of a foul fly ball, LCF Dylan Laventhal went 2-4 with an opposite-field triple and 1 RBI, 1B Gerald Levin and C Rabbi David Posternock each with RBI singles.
In the championship game, a rematch of the same two teams as in 2013, a very close, even more exciting game also took place. Gates of Prayer went up 1-0 in their bottom of the 1st. In the top of the 4th, Beth Israel pushed across 2 runs on RBI singles by Dylan Laventhal and Gerald Levin to take a 2-1 lead. In the top of the 6th, Beth Israel added 3 runs via RBI singles by Jason Feder and Justin Napoli to go up 5-1. In the bottom of the 6th, Gates of Prayer added 3 runs also, scoring two of them on a towering two-out opposite-field triple to the right field fence by LCF Brad Rosenblatt.
Then in the 7th, Beth Israel added 2 runs on RBI singles, making the score 7-4, setting the stage for Gates of Prayer’s last at bat. In their bottom of the 7th and last inning, Gates of Prayer rallied for two more runs on RF Martin Fischman’s 2-out Inside-The-Park HR, making it a one-run game at 7-6. Beth Israel retired the next batter to preserve the score with Beth Israel holding on to win the SSL Championship for the second time in three years, in a nail-biter finish by the score of 7-6.
Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the SSL Playoffs was Beth Israel’s Dylan Laventhal, who for the two playoff games went 5-8 with a triple and 3 RBIs. Winning Pitcher for Beth Israel in both playoff games was Randy Opotowsky, who only three weeks prior to the playoffs, had knee surgery and played courageously throughout the season to help Beth Israel make their “minyan” of ten players out on the ball field.
A Team Championship Victory BBQ Party was held the following Sunday, August 9 at Beth Israel Team Captain Hilton Title’s home, where First-Year SSL Commissioner Brian Shepard presented to Team Beth Israel the SSL Championship Epstein Trophy, named in honor of past SSL Commissioner of 23 years (1992-2014) — Rick Epstein.
This year the SSL welcomed back the Chabad House Center Team, who had not fielded a team for the previous two years, bringing the number of synagogues participating to a total of six.
Other synagogues/players (both male and female) in the Southeast LA region interested in fielding teams/participating in the league are urged to contact Commissioner of SSL Brian Shepard (also Touro Synagogue Team Captain) or the respective Captains of the other five SSL Teams:
Ben Horwitz — Captain Shir Chadash Synagogue
Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin — Captain Chabad House Center
Fred Shear/Allan Berger — Captains Gates of Prayer Congregation
Brian Shepard — Captain Touro Synagogue
Hilton Title — Captain Beth Israel
Jake Weinstock — Captain Temple Sinai
The 2016 SSL season commences in March and games are held at Mike Miley Playground in Metairie on most Sunday mornings through July.
Final SSL Regular Season Standings
Team Team Record Games Back
Temple Sinai 7-2-1 * ___
Shir Chadash Congregation 7-2-1 * ___
Gates of Prayer Congregation 7-3 1/2
Beth Israel Synagogue 5-4-1 2
Touro Synagogue 2-7-1 5
Chabad House Center 0-10 7 1/2
Temple Sinai has the tie-breaker over Shir Chadash by virtue of going 1-0-1 in their head-to-head competition
PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS: Gates of Prayer 22 — Shir Chadash 7
Beth Israel 5 — Temple Sinai 4
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Beth Israel 7 — Gates of Prayer 6