Axemen, Prospects battle to pool play tie in Firecracker

By Bob Behre | September 1, 2020

Alex Foth of Prospect Baseball Academy barrels one up.

Prospect Baseball’s John Gogerty escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth to preserve a 5-5 tie with Axemen Red in a back-and-forth pool play game in the 14U Firecracker Classic on Tuesday at Diamond Nation.

A tie is not what these teams came for but it does keep the hope of a playoff berth alive in the four-game pool play scenario. It wasn’t a sloppy game by any means but, typical of a 14U game, each team gave its coach opportunities to provide lessons.

“A lot of teaching moments for sure,” said Axemen Red coach Jesus Navarro. “We had an early lead and lost it but we battled back. We kept fighting and put pressure on their pitchers.”

Axemen Red struck for three runs on five hits in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 5-5. Aidan McNally doubled home a run, Braeden Kelly lofted a sac fly to right field and T.J. Gustafson delivered the tying run with a one-out single to left field.

But Gogerty entered the game and got the final two outs of the inning with runners on second and third, preserving the tie for the first time. He got himself in a pickle in the fifth as the game approached the time limit. The righthander allowed an infield single and issued two walks before inducing a pop up to third base to end the game.

Both teams were successful putting the ball in play but could have done a better job getting outs and some of it can be attributed to a lack of aggressiveness defensively. “At this age, 14 to 15 years olds, they’re not aggressive in making plays,” said Prospect Baseball Academy coach Matt Cuervo. “They don’t watch the game on TV.” So, sometimes it appears there is a lot of learning on the job and, in this case, it’s not virtual.

McNally singled home the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning and Justin Navarro’s fielder’s choice bouncer to the left side scored James Rodas to give Axemen Red a quick 2-0 lead. Prospects Baseball shaved the deficit to 2-1 in the second after Nick Yorlano and Jack Orlando drew back-to-back walks and Yorlano scored from second on an errant throw in the infield.

Justin Navarro of Axemen Red gets low-bridged on a heater from Prospect Baseball’s Harrison Curran.

But third baseman Jaden Slivka cut a runner down at the plate and starting pitcher Braeden Kelly got Axemen Red out of the bases-loaded jam with a strikeout.

Shane Manzi’s RBI single in the third tied the game at 2-2 for Prospects Baseball. Liam Randazzo started it with a one-out walk and Fabio Marcano and Yorlano followed with singles to load the bases. Axemen shortstop Harrison Curran then made a diving catch on Carter Keilbania’s lined drive in the hole to strand the bases loaded.

Prospects would score three runs in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead and did so without the benefit of a hit. Axemen pitchers issued five walks and hit a batter. Randazzo brought a run home on his hit by pitch and Marcano and Yorlano drew walks to force in the other two runs.

Curran relieved for Axemen Red in the top of the fifth and never gave Prospects Baseball an opportunity to break the tie. The righthander struck out the first two batters of the inning and, after Alex Foth reached on an infield error, got the third out on a bouncer to second base.

With the time limit approaching quickly, Axemen Red had an opportunity to come away with a walk-off victory and very nearly did so.

Curran, the Axemen’s leadoff batter, reached on an infield single and Rodas bunted him to second base. Neal Gupta drew a walk but would be erased on a forceout at second. Gogerty then walked McNally to load the bases with two outs. But dangerous Navarro, who had singled in the middle of the Axemen rally in the fourth, popped out to third base to end the game in a tie.

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