Joe Pappas of NY Prospects reaches base against Baseball U PA-Pocono.
By Joe Hofmann
Baseball U PA-Pocono finished 7-12 this past summer – and the struggles continued early on in the 15U Summer Finale tournament at Diamond Nation Saturday night.
Baseball U made three first-inning errors that led to two first-inning N.Y. Prospect runs.
But coach Carson Freeman’s team put the missteps aside and emerged with a 6-4 victory.
Most importantly, they sent a message to all: This wasn’t the same old Baseball U PA-Pocono.
“It’s really important to keep playing,” Baseball U center fielder Brian Kitchell said. “In baseball, you need a short mindset.”
Baseball U sure has that. Casting aside both its summer struggles and ugly first inning, the team did the little baseball things that Freeman preaches: throwing strikes, not chasing pitches out of the strike zone, fielding the ball cleanly, and making the most of outs.
All of those qualities helped Baseball U come out ahead against N.Y. Prospects.
And it all started in between innings in the very first inning, when Freeman simply reminded his team to clean up the defense, wipe the slate clean, and move forward.
Kitchell did just that when he began the bottom of the first inning by legging out a triple to left center and scoring on Darian Serreno’s infield grounder.
“I was thinking three right away,” Kitchell said. “I knew it would be a close play.”
The team would score two runs in the second to secure the lead for good and added three more in the fourth.
In the second inning, Aiden Brier led off with a single to center and Logan Rasmussen walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up before winning pitcher Colin Howell hit a sacrifice fly. A.J. Triffilo then reached first and knocked in a second run when Prospects failed to cover first.
“Good situational baseball,” Freeman said. “Get on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.”
In the fourth, Baseball U loaded the bases when Logan O’Connor and Rasmussen sandwiched walks around a Brier double.
What followed wasn’t pretty, but Freeman and Baseball U loved it: two straight walks (to Howell and Triffilo) and a hit batsman (Lucas Angst) plated three runs for a 6-2 lead.
“We took pitches and didn’t expand the zone,” Freeman said. “When their pitchers struggled, we didn’t help them. We didn’t chase.”
The Pocono pitchers, meanwhile, got ahead of Prospects hitters and stayed ahead of them.
Howell weathered a rough start and settled in.
In the first inning, Prospects leadoff man Christian Brinzo singled to right, reached third when the ball eluded the right fielder, and scored on an infield out. One out later, Joe Pappas reached on an infield hit, stole second, and came around to score on two errors (on the throw and the pickup in the outfield) to put Prospects ahead, 2-0.
But Howell threw three straight scoreless frames before he was relieved by hard-throwing Darian Serreno, who allowed two runs on two hits in the fifth but pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth with two strikeouts to end it.
Howell and Serreno were not dominant but kept the ball in play by issuing just three walks over six innings.
Prospects pitchers, meanwhile, walked eight and hit two batters in five innings of work.
It was hardly a Picasso – but it resulted in a win and sure beat the alternative that Baseball U exhibited for parts of the summer.
“We had a bad summer,” Kitchell said. “It was rough.”
But the coming fall season looks a lot more promising.
“This was a nice way to get started in the fall season – with a win,” Freeman said. “We played some good situational baseball.”