By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
There’s no question that the Kearny High School baseball team is better than the 5-17 record the Kardinals currently own.
“Out of our 17 losses, I’d say four of them we had no part of being in those games,” Kearny head coach Frank Bifulco said. “The rest were all one bad inning here and there. It just seems like when everything could go wrong, it does. I asked the other coaches the other day about when the dark cloud passes us.”
However, wins and losses took a back seat last Friday afternoon, when the Kardinals were facing Hudson Catholic in the opening round of the Ed Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament.
In a fleeting moment, all that mattered was the health and well being of senior pitcher Kyle MacConchie.
The Kardinals were in another close game, unfortunately on the short end once again, when MacConchie, pitching a solid game, experienced one of the more frightening scenarios in all of high school sports.
Soon after delivering a pitch, MacConchie was struck in the head with a line drive off the bat of a Hudson Catholic player.
“It was the scariest thing I’d ever witnessed in all my years of baseball,” Bifulco said. “He got hit with the line drive square in the side of his head and didn’t even have a chance to put the glove up.”
MacConchie went right down to the turf at Lincoln Park in Jersey City and lay there motionless.
“We were out on the field before the play even stopped,” Bifulco said. “Coaches from both teams ran right out there.”
Within 30 minutes, MacConchie was being examined by specialists in the Jersey City Medical Center Trauma Center.
“We were playing a great game that had turned into a close dogfight and then Kyle gets hit with the ball,” Bifulco said. “It was very scary.”
Fortunately for Mac- Conchie, he is going to be fine.
“He got released from the hospital later that night, about 10 p.m. or so,” Bifulco said. “The CAT scan came back fine. The doctors say he’s going to be fine. Within three hours, they had everything done. Hudson Catholic did a great job of calling ahead and making sure that Kyle would be taken care of. He’s very lucky.”
Bifulco said that he spoke with MacConchie that night. He didn’t realize that he had suffered a traumatic injury and was more concerned with his future.
“He was more worried about a coach from Sussex County Community College being there to recruit him that day and then he gets hit with a line drive,” Bifulco said. “He’ll keep going.”
Bifulco said that he was impressed with the professionalism of his players.
“I’m very proud of my kids,” Bifulco said. “They tried to keep it together and it wasn’t easy. It was very emotional. But they wanted to play the rest of the game and to try and win it for Kyle. The kids are all close, they’re all friends. They all wanted to go to the hospital after the game. They’re a good group of kids. When something like this happens, it puts baseball to the backburner. You don’t care about winning or losing.”
It’s not known whether MacConchie will miss the remainder of the season. But he will recover. It could have been far worse.
The Kardinals suffered a 6-2 loss, sending their record to 5-17.
“(Hall of Fame football coach) Bill Parcells always said that you are what your record is,” Bifulco said. “But we’ve been so unlucky.”
The Kardinals have defeated solid teams like Bayonne and North Bergen, two teams that have won 16 games this season. In fact, MacConchie was the one who defeated Bayonne.
In a span of one week, the Kards lost to Nutley and Union City by identical 2-0 scores.
“In those two games, we left 16 runners in scoring position,” Bifulco said. “You just don’t know why those things happen. Our kids are working hard and doing the right thing.”
Even in the loss Friday, the Kards had the bases loaded twice and couldn’t muster more than the two runs they scored.
“It makes you wonder if all the work you’re putting in is worth it,” Bifulco said. “Then something like this happens to Kyle and you forget about everything else.”
Bifulco said that he still had weak knees when he finally returned home Friday night.
“It really could have been worse,” Bifulco said.
Bifulco doesn’t know if his team will qualify for the upcoming NJSIAA state playoffs. The Kards won’t know until the pairings are released next week.
“It’s going to be close,” Bifulco said. “We’re right there with the power points.”
If not, the Kards will have three or four games to finish the season on a high note. After all, it can’t get much worse.
“We will all keep going,” Bifulco said. “We have to.”
In the meantime, Bifulco will host a free skills clinic for prospective baseball players ages seven through 14 on Sunday morning, May 19, beginning at 9 a.m. at Franklin School Field.
It’s the third free clinic that Bifulco has organized since he took over as head coach last season. It’s free for all Kearny residents who want to learn a little bit more about baseball.
“We’re going to break it up by positions,” Bifulco said. “We’ll do a little instruction, but also make it fun for the kids.”
The way the season is going, there has to be some fun for Bifulco and his coaching staff.
For more information about the free skills clinic, call 201- 477-8061.