Ryan Fischer pitched a complete game five-hitter and Bryce Totten hammered a grand slam as the NJ Jays National held off Grit Baseball, 6-3, in the Diamond Nation Fall League championship game on Thursday night.
The Jays had pitched five straight shutouts before Joe Wisniewski’s two-run triple ignited a three-run top of the first inning that staked Grit Baseball to a very quick 3-0 lead. But the right-handed Fischer responded with six straight shutout innings on the way to his sixth victory of the fall.
The championship was the second straight Diamond Nation Fall League title for the NJ Jays National, which finished a stunning 16-1 in the Fall League while outscoring its opponents by a gaudy 144-21.
Fischer struck out eight and walked four, but only two of those free passes came after the first inning.
“My coach always reminds me to use my legs,” said Fischer (6-1). “My front side was opening up early on. I felt it, so I had to make an adjustment.”
Falling behind three runs so early in a championship game can be debilitating to a pitcher’s psyche, but Totten made sure Fischer’s thoughts would be refocused in the second inning when he unloaded a grand slam in the bottom of the first to suddenly put the Jays in front, 4-3.
Dan Icaza led off the inning with a single to center field before Brendan Bucceri drew a walk, setting up the Jays’ quick answer to Grit Baseball’s big top half of the inning. David Kurzrock then reached when his bouncer to the left side was mishandled. Totten stepped in with the bases loaded and worked the count to 2-2.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play, especially with two strikes,” said Totten. “I got a fastball up and in and it just carried.”
Totten’s shot went high and deep to left field as left fielder R.J. Giantonio glided back, giving the impression he had a bead on the ball. But the ball slammed into the edge of the dugout roof beyond the fence and bounded over it for a home run.
“I didn’t think I hit it that well,” said Totten. “When I got around first base I saw it bounce up and over.”
That the grand slam would prove to be enough for the Jays was a credit to Fischer, who permitted no runs on just three hits, struck out seven and walked two over the final six innings.
“Fish’ was a bulldog,” said Jays coach Steve Farsiou. “These are all good kids. They played hard. The fall is all about developing and improving and they did a good job doing that.”
Grit starter Kyle Lisa pitched pretty well despite the one swing that ruined his first inning. He permitted five runs, three of which were earned, on four hits over four innings, struck out four and walked one.
The Jays tacked on a run in the fourth and a run in the sixth, both unearned, to give Fischer some breathing room. Evan Urbanski reached on an infield error with one out and came around on consecutive singles by Brendan Clare and Kyle Fratesi.
Dan Rini, pinch-hitting for Urbanski, ignited the rally leading off the sixth when his shot to left-center field was dropped for a two-base error. A passed ball got Rini to third and Farsiou immediately signaled for Clare to squeeze. Clare dropped a perfect bunt down the right side as Rini raced home for a 6-3 lead. “We really wanted that run,” said Farsioiu.
It certainly didn’t hurt Fischer’s comfort level in the seventh.
“It was an interesting fall because we had injuries,” said Farsiou. “We try to be good on the mound and position people well in the field.” The Jays lost shortstop and No. 2 hitter Garrison LeGros last week to an ankle injury and Totten was moved from center field to shortstop to fill that role.
Phil Mahlik got Grit Baseball going in the top of the first with a single through the middle then stole second and third before the Jays got an out. But Fischer nearly did get out of the jam, inducing a comebacker and getting a strikeout. Fischer, however, issued a four-pitch walk to cleanup hitter Tyree Bradley before Wisniewski made him pay for that with a shot into the left-center field gap for a two-run triple.
Wisniewski scored the third run of the inning on the back end of a double steal attempt. The Jays were able to get Rob Holmes out in a rundown on the play but not before Wisniewski scored.
Fischer faced just four batters over the minimum over the final six innings. Lisa (2-for-3) led off the sixth with a ringing grounds rule double to left-center that looked important considering the Jays’ lead was still just 5-3. But Fischer retired the next six batters in order from there, four of them by strikeout, to close out his own victory in style.
NOTES: The Jays pitching staff and catcher Luke Longo were named the Fall League’s Most Valuable Players and it would be hard to argue that point. The Jays staff pitched seven shutouts and permitted just 21 runs in 16 games. … Austin Ritter pitched a complete game four-hitter against Hustle Baseball Academy in the quarterfinals, striking eight and walking none. … Chris Murdock nearly pitched a no-hitter against a very talented In The Zone Knights squad in the semifinals. Murdock permitted a lone hit that came in the seventh inning while striking out 17 and walking one. … Icaza, Kurzrock, Totten (4 RBI), Clare (RBI) and Fratesi each had a hit for the Jays in the final. … Mahlik, Bradley and Wisniewski (2 RBI) each had a hit, along with Lisa’s two knocks, for Grit Baseball.
(Bryce Totten (NJ Jays), grand slam in botton of the first)