Daniel Levine of NJ Giants, who went 2-for-3, looks at pitch in the “dirt.”
The way the Philly Bandits were mashing it almost seemed appropriate when Joel Bonner jumped on a first-pitch fastball from NJ Giants reliever Daniel Levine and deposited it over the right field fence for a game-ending three-run home run.
Bonner had waited patiently in the on deck circle as Levine completed his warm-up pitches after his teammates Jay Slater and Joey Amati opened the bottom of the fifth inning in the 17/18U Blue Chip Prospects with a triple and double, respectively. It was the tournament opener for each team.
“I was just watching him warm up and I’m thinking fastball first pitch,” said Bonner, an one of many not-long-to-be uncommitted rising juniors on the Bandits very loaded roster. I got the fastball and hit it pretty well. It’s my first home run of the summer.”
It was Bonner’s fourth and fifth RBI of the game and it gave the Philly Bandits a 9-1 lead and the victory via the eight-run mercy rule.
Bonner, however, was just one of several contributors to the Bandits’ nine-hit onslaught in the five-inning game.
Slater, the Bandits’ catcher committed to Duke University, was steady as ever behind the plate and ferocious at it, going 3-for-3 with an RBI grounds rule double in the first inning, a leadoff single in the third and the leadoff triple in the fifth. The No. 3 hitter scored three runs with Amati and Bonner doing damage behind him.
Slater was committed to Michigan for about a year but decommitted recently and switched to Duke after a coaching change in Ann Arbor.
“I’m just trying not to do too much up there,” said Slater of an approach at the plate that belies calm and patience. “Pitch selection isn’t a big thing for me. I’m just trying to see the ball where it’s pitched and hit it hard.”
The Bandits sent hard throwing lefty Aidan von Zuben and equally hard throwing righty Christian Clauss at the Giants and both were effective and each topped out at 87 miles per hour.
The starter, von Zuben, scattered five hits over three innings, permitting just one run while striking out seven, walking two and hitting a batter. Clauss closed out the game with two scoreless and hitless innings of relief. In fact, he struck out four as he retired all six batters he faced.
The Bandits broke out of the gate quickly, striking for four runs on four hits and a costly Giants error in the bottom of the first inning. Leor Kedar and Eric Cross, the first two hitters in the Bandits lineup, triggered the rally with back-to-back singles. The righty hitting Slater followed with a slicing ground rule double to right that scored Kedar with the game’s first run.
Amati didn’t deliver in his opportunity with two runners in scoring position but his comeback did produce a run when Giants pitcher Paul Warburton air mailed his throw over his catcher’s head. Bonner’s bouncer to the right side scored Slater with the third run of the inning. Williams Irons brought home the fourth turn with a two-out single to center field.
The Giants stranded five runners in the first two innings but finally broke through in the top of the third when Jake Lopez’s two-out single to left field scored Levine. Levin led off the inning with a single and reached second on a fielder’s choice.
The Slater, Amati, Bonner connection was at it again in the third inning, producing two more runs to extend the lead to 6-1.
Slater led off with a single to left, Amati followed with a single to right before Bonner chased them both home with a triple to right that appeared gone off the bat.
“We’ve hit well all summer,” said Slater. “I trust everyone in this lineup. Last week our No. 9 hitter went yard.”
Jon Cross, the head coach of the Philly Bandits, has spent his summer watching this highlight show.
“We’ve been to Boston, to Georgia, we were here for Super 17,” said Cross. “This is a really good team. Jay has been hitting great. He always makes hard contact and he has that extra-base ability. Everything he hits lands in the outfield.”
Levine went 2-for-3 and scored a run and Tim Porfido and Dylan Bonanti each singled for the Giants.
The Philly Bandits 16U plays the Long Island Titans LoRusso, 4:30 p.m. tomorrow at Railroad Field. The NJ Giants are up next opposite the NY Blue Sox at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow at McNight Field in Montgomery.