Balance Bat wins 17U Summer Finale in ‘Nation’ debut

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 28, 2023

By Rich Bevensee

They assembled as a team for the first time this weekend at Diamond Nation in Flemington, wearing borrowed uniforms with the wrong last names on the back, yet they were completely familiar with each other and excited to be together.

They left ‘The Nation’ having thoroughly dominated the opposition, demonstrating just how powerful of a team they will have next spring. 

Balance Bat Academy, a 17U club team composed mostly of varsity baseball players from Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, capped its tournament debut on Sunday afternoon with an 8-3 victory over perennial power Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 17U Nationals in the Summer Finale championship game. 

“It’s awesome, the best,” said tournament Most Valuable Player Brady Thompson, who created some breathing room for BBA in the final with a towering three-run home run. “I’ve always had a ball with my travel team, but when I got to play with my school team it’s the best. And to bring home a championship is big time.”

Thompson’s homer came at the best possible time for BBA, at least that’s how coach Joe Dean saw it. 

Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth inning of what had been a nip-and-tuck game, BBA was in good position to score some insurance runs after getting runners on first and third with no out. 

RCBC starter Tyler Gaetano bounced back with a strikeout. Second baseman Peter Fopeano then made a terrific heads-up play when he scooped up a batted ball which deflected off Gaetano and fired home to nail Jonathan O’Boyle at the plate for the second out. 

The lefty-hitting Thompson, who hit a walk-off homer earlier on Sunday to bring about the mercy rule in an 11-1 win over the Mass Rebels, blasted a towering shot over the right field fence for a three-run home run, giving BBA a 7-3 lead.

“I like to come up when the game calls for something big,” said Thompson, who cranked his fourth homer of the summer. “In that spot I’m thinking I gotta perform for the team and score whoever’s on base.”

“He’s one of those guys who feeds off the pressure situations, the adrenaline situations,” Dean said. “We’re clinging to a one run lead and we just had a tough play at the plate. There was never a doubt Brady would come through.”

Thompson, a 5-10, 185-pound rising junior at Garnet Valley, confessed he was looking to homer in that situation. 

“Honestly? I was looking to go deep in that spot,” Thompson said with a sheepish grin. “When I really go for it, I either get it or I don’t, so what I worked on this summer is not striking out so much and finding barrels consistently. It’s led to less home runs but more extra base hits.”

The MVP award may mean more to Thompson’s house guest than to him.

“It was more about the championship than the MVP for me,” Thompson said. “But the MVP feels good and my mom will like it, too. So will my Spanish friend (Markel Vesga) who’s been here for a month. I get to bring home something for him today which is great because he’s going home Monday.”

BBA hurlers Cody Weist and Jack Krautzel, both rising juniors at Garnet Valley, were impressive in slowing down an RCBC offense which scored 26 runs in its first three games.

Brady Thompson of Balance Bat 17U was named MVP of the 17U Summer Finale.

Weist, a 6-0, 160-pound righty, pitched three innings and allowed three runs on three hits and two walks with one strikeout. Weist was so efficient at the outset he needed only 11 pitches to retire the first six batters. He exited the game with BBA trailing 3-1. 

Krautzel, also a righty, pitched three scoreless innings while stranding four runners. He allowed two hits and a walk and struck out one.

“We preach strikes,” Dean said. “We want our guys to pitch with confidence and pound the zone and trust the defense. That’s what they did.”

“When the game is tight it helps me focus more,” Weist said. “I was just trying to throw strikes, throw competitive pitches, not get in my head.”

BBA took its first lead in the top of the fourth. Thompson stroked an RBI single through the middle, Harrison Maull walked with the bases loaded, and Cole Lombardo added a sacrifice fly for a 4-3 BBA lead. 

Thompson’s three-run shot in the fifth was the crucial blow for BBA. Maull added another run for the Garnet Valley boys in the sixth with an RBI double. 

“We just knew the bats would come alive at some point,” said Dean, whose team outscored the opposition 41-6 while going 3-0-1 this weekend. “It was only a matter of time before we started hitting. We’d been having good at bats and we hit well all weekend.”

Balance Bat Academy is a training facility in Parkesburg where the team trains and at which Dean works. His idea of bringing the Garnet Valley returning varsity players together before the start of the school year was met with rousing approval. Dean, a Garnet Valley varsity assistant, first checked the Diamond Nation schedule about a month ago to make sure the team would see some action.

Then came the uniforms with strangers’ names on the back.

“They don’t all have the same summer uniforms and we weren’t allowed to wear school uniforms,” Dean said. “So I have a friend who prints jerseys, and he had a set of jerseys that were a mistake. So I called him up and he said, ‘Take ‘em.’ Free jerseys are the best.”

In limiting four teams to six runs this weekend, Dean commended his pitching staff. O’Boyle pitched the first game, a 2-2 tie with the Easton Area Baseball Organization Riverdawgs 17U. Nick Gordon needed to pitch just one inning in a 20-0 verdict against the Shore Road Sluggers. Gordon came back to start the third game against the Mass Rebels and Weist finished up that 11-1 win. 

RCBC reached the title game by allowing one run in three contests. The Nationals beat Knights Baseball, 4-1, Ironbound of Newark, 8-0, and Sportika Baseball 2024 Blue, 14-0. 

For RCBC, Mike Flashner got the offense started with an RBI single in the first inning and Greg Harrison added an RBI groundout for a 2-0 lead. Randy Davis blasted a triple to right center in the second inning but was left stranded. Nick Runfela scored on a wild pitch in the third for a 3-1 RCBC lead. 

Gaetano pitched five innings and allowed eight runs on 11 hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Anthony Fusco pitched a scoreless sixth with one strikeout. And Dylan Swanson allowed one hit in a scoreless seventh.

Share With A Friend:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *