Alex Holberton of Locked In Expos 17U Blue launches an RBI sac fly in the sixth inning.
By Rich Bevensee
Even during its most massive tournaments, Diamond Nation in Flemington is a pretty quiet place at eight o’clock in the morning. A few fans can be heard shouting their son’s names, but for the most part the baseball noise is relegated to the young men on the field.
Southpaw Ryan Barry and right-hander Mikey Donvito, pitchers for Locked In Baseball Expos 17U Blue, ensured Field 1 at the Nation would remain silent for the next two hours even after the Nation opened its doors Friday.
Barry pitched four shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, and Donvito allowed just one hit, one walk and a hit batsman in his three innings of work as the Expos blanked the Syracuse Sports Zone Braves 4-0 on the final day of the Super 17 Invitational.
“Pitching was fantastic today,” Expos coach Chris Bagley said. “They pounded the strike zone and showed good command.”
The triumph salvaged a difficult week for the Expos, who lost two one-run games and two lopsided affairs prior to facing the Braves. The Tidewater Phillies got the best of the Expos 10-0 on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday the Expos lost a pair of close games, 4-3 to Baseball U PA Higgins and 9-8 to East Coast Royals 17U. On Thursday Northeast Pride 24 National shut out the Expos 7-0.
On Friday morning it was the Expos’ turn to silence an opposing lineup.
Barry, a rising senior at Chatham High, struck out the side in the first and fourth innings. His only hiccup was a second inning walk to Jacob Severson after his 2-2 curveball somehow missed the corner of the plate. With a fastball hovering in the low 80s, he permitted just two batters to put the ball into play in his 70-pitch outing.
“When I woke up my body felt nice and loose, and when I started throwing in the bullpen it felt effortless,” Barry said. “I was mixing in my offspeed pitches and felt sharp. Once I got on the mound I felt I was throwing even harder than in the bullpen. It felt easier.
“I had a lot of first-pitch strikes with the fastball and I was dialing it up with that,” said Barry, who threw 47 pitches for strikes for 67 percent efficiency. “Then I’d go in with a curveball and slider. I was really painting outside corners with fastballs and I was working quickly and getting a lot of first pitch strikes. That makes it a lot harder for hitters.”
Barry, making his first appearance for the Expos this season, was effective for the Chatham varsity this spring. He pitched to a 2.86 ERA with 25 strikeouts against 10 walks.
Following up a strong high school season with his Expos debut, he continued to demonstrate in Friday’s outing he understands how to mix pitches and locate them with consistency.
“I didn’t use my changeup or two-seam today,” Barry said. “Sometimes I will when I need more movement on the fastball if I feel they’re hitting it, but I didn’t feel like I needed it today. I felt good about the four seam-slider combo today.”
Donvito, a right-hander with a near-sidearm delivery and a fastball in the upper 70s, was making his third appearance for the Expos after flying north from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He stays with his aunt in New York City when playing for Locked In. He’ll join the Expos a few more times this summer, including the team’s trips to Boston and Georgia.
“The traveling is a little stressful but it’s worth it hopefully when I commit somewhere,” Donvito said.
“The nice thing about Mikey is he’s a sinkerballer with a low arm slot and he runs the ball in on guys,” Bagley said. “He’s got a lot of movement, a lot of balls that are never in the middle of the plate. He’s pitched for us three times now and all of his outings have been really good. He’s got good command and spins it a little bit.”
Donvito, a rising senior at St. John Paul II Academy in Boca Raton, allowed a single baserunner in each of his three innings but left them anchored at first base. He struck out five in his 37-pitch appearance.
“I think the slider was working well, even though I hit that last guy,” Donvito said. “The fastball had a lot of life and I was getting quick outs – the quick tempo made it easy to get guys out. I was throwing sliders, a two-seam fastball. Everything was working pretty well for me.”
Expos batters demonstrated patience in attacking Syracuse pitching, none more than Barry’s Chatham teammate Alex Holberton, who used an 11-pitch at bat to earn a walk leading off the bottom of the second inning. One pitch later he scored from first on a double to center by Connor Watson. Watson scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Evan Ravalli.
In the third inning the Expos struck for another run for a 3-0 lead, as leadoff man Curtis Battle walked, stole second and scored on a Joseph Barlovic RBI single.
Nick Shuhet (2-for-3) padded the Expos lead in the sixth, doubling to the right-center gap and scoring on a Holberton sac fly.
For the Braves, Jack Byrnes allowed three runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in three innings. Reliever Danny Swift pitched three innings and yielded one run on three hits and no walks.
The Braves completed their visit to New Jersey with a 3-2 record. On Monday they downed Northeast Pride 24 National, 3-1, and used the same score to knock off East Coast Royals 17U on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Braves continued their road trip with a 7-4 victory over the Tidewater Phillies. On Thursday Syracuse dropped their first contest, 3-1 to Baseball U PA 17U Higgins.