Bandits pitcher Joey Conti fires a pitch in Tuesday’s Super 17 Invitational vs. Locked in Expos.
By Will Harrigan
With several of their players finishing up their final exams on Monday, the Bandits Baseball Club was in a little bit of a hurry to get down the coast to Flemington, N.J. and open their season at Diamond Nation.
The boys from Rhode Island and Massachusetts showed no ill effects of the quick turnaround, getting their summer of baseball off to the right start.
Adjusting at the plate in the later innings, the Bandits would ultimately hold on and take a 5-3 victory over Locked in Expos 17U at ‘The Nation’ on Tuesday morning in Super 17 Invitational play.
The Bandits opened their four-game showcase schedule at 1-0, while the largely Morris County-based Expos dropped their showcase opener.
“We definitely had a crazy past week getting ready. Some guys have been practicing, some were still in school,” said Bandits coach David Roy. “We’re going to be playing all over this summer, and it’s always nice to get off to a good start.”
For the game’s first four innings, Madison (N.J.) High sidewinder Quinn Regan of the Expos had the Bandits fooled, only surrendering two softly hit singles while effectively pitching to contact.
By the fifth – with the order taking its third turn – the Bandits were finally able to crack the code. With the bases loaded and one man out, No. 10 batter Ethan Gray – a Springfield college commit – laced a single to right field to score a run and get the Bandits on the board.
A batter later, Nate Lewis of the fabled Rhode Island powerhouse Bishop Hendricken would draw a bases loaded walk to extend the lead to 2-0 after four and a half innings.
“Those first four innings were an adventure. We looked lost because that kid is tough,” Roy said of the Expos’ Regan. “He knows how to paint corners and changes up speeds. We finally adjusted and scored. Once their reliever came in, we were fine with the higher velocity.”
Mitchell College-bound Bobby Vale would drive in a run in the sixth, which was shortly followed by a successful double steal of home in a first-third situation by Bandits starting pitcher Joey Conti.
Conti – of Lincoln High School of Rhode Island – was exceptional in five innings of work, striking out seven and only surrendering two hits.
“He’s an ace, and he showed that today,” said Roy. “Joey actually just finished a great high school season, so it’s no surprise to see this continue.”
With Conti out of the game in the bottom half of the sixth, the Expos would strike for three runs to make things interesting.
Locked In would show off its own depth after Domenic Costanza and Caden Gabriele singled and reached scoring position off an error.
Eleven batter Zach Hume – a rising senior at Summit – would come through, delivering a two-run single up the middle to pull Locked In Expos within 4-2. Hume would come around to score two batters later, when Westfield product Kellen Edwards drove him in with a single.
The bases were still loaded with one out, but Conti’s high school teammate, Michael Bowler, would induce a grounder to second and a strikeout to escape further damage.
Gray would score on an Expos fielding mishap off the bat of Aiden Cherniawski in the seventh to add insurance, before a 1-2-3 seventh pitched by Bowler.