Flood City Elite, 9ers , Super 14U and 12U win Fall Harvest titles

By Bob Behre

 

Playing short-handed proved to be no problem for Altoona, Pa.-based Flood City Elite, which defeated the Hudson Valley Bulldogs, 7-4 in the Fall Harvest 16U Green Bracket championship game on Sunday night at Diamond Nation.
 
Flood City (4-0-1) played with 10 players on Saturday but was down to nine on Sunday when it went 3-0 on the way to the tournament championship. That made righthander Evan Smith’s performance in the final that much more critical. Smith scattered eight hits in a complete game effort, striking out six and walking just one.
 
“Our pitchers had to throw strikes in this tournament and they did,” said Flood City coach Ron Helsel. “Evan was another one of our pitchers to get it done.”
 
Flood City pitchers shut out their first three tournament opponents before defeating Generals JV Silver, 6-1, in the semifinals to earn the team’s way into the championship game. While Smith had to contend with an excellent hitting Bulldogs squad, he wisely took an aggressive approach, pounding the strike zone with fastballs and curveballs.

The Flood City Elite lineup would reward Smith’s gritty effort on the mound by scoring a run in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth and seventh to erase 2-0 and 3-2 leads.

Caleb Gampe ignited the rally in the fifth with a two-out single and Keegan Soltis chased him home with a double to left field. That tied the game at 3-3 and set the state for the big sixth and seventh innings for Flood City.

“We played real good fundamental baseball,” said Helsel. “We had to manufacture runs with a couple of our bigger hitters missing.”

Noah Aungst triggered the rally in the sixth with a leadoff single through the left side. Kyle Gloss singled with one out and both runners broke on Ethan Leib’s bouncer to the left side. The third baseman’s throw to first base was wild, allowing Aungst to score from second and Gloss to reach third. Nick Helsel then dropped down a pretty safety squeeze down the right side to score Gloss and give Flood City a 5-3 lead.

But the Bulldogs (4-1) kept battling in their half of the sixth, shaving the deficit to 5-4 after Dean Pegone and Aiden Diltz opened the inning with back-to-back singles. A wild pitch pushed both runners into scoring position with no outs. But Smith, who would strand seven runners in scoring position, got out of the jam nearly clean. He got a strikeout, induced an 

RBI groundout out of Kevin Walla, and struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Its lead down to a single run, Flood City’s lineup went about giving Smith some breathing room. And they truly manufactured a pair of insurance runs to do just that.

Smith and Aungst were hit by pitches around a sac bunt by Jake Hillard. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch with Casey Conner at the plate. After Conner worked the count to 3-0, the Bulldogs intentionally walked him. Coach Helsel then pulled out all stops with the bases loaded and one out.

With a suicide squeeze on and all three runners moving, Smith got such a huge jump off of third base he was able to slide under the catcher’s tag when Gloss missed at his bunt attempt. Gloss, given another shot at a suicide squeeze, dropped one down perfectly to score Aungst and give Flood City a much more comfortable 7-4 lead.

Flood City Elite outscored its tournament opponents 29-5 and the Hudson Valley Bulldogs were nearly as dominant, holding a 34-11 advantage over its opponents.

9ERS BASEBALL CLUB (4-0, 29-3), squeaked past Max Impact, 2-1, in the 16U Red Bracket championship game. The Red Bracket final certainly brought together two teams playing on a high level. Max Impact outscored its tournament opponents 27-4.

Mike Bello of the 9ers was named the Red Bracket Most Valuable Player. Bello went 7-for-10 with three doubles, drove in four runs and stole four bases in his team’s four games. Bello is a 6-2, 175-pound freshman outfielder at Pope John.

The Diamond Jacks Super 14U and Super 12U teams also won championships in the Fall Harvest tournament.

The SUPER 14U (5-0, 42-13) squad defeated the MVP Blue Jackets (3-2, 41-17), 8-1, in the 14U championship game. Jayden Hylton was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The SUPER 12U (5-0, 46-18) team edged the Pearl River Yankees (4-1, 35-24), 6-2, in the 12U title game. Christian Clauss was named the 12U tournament Most Valuable Player.

Diamond Nation concludes its fall tournament schedule with the Halloween Mash this coming weekend (Oct.27-29) with play in five age groups; 10U, 11U, 12U, 15U and 17/18U.