Mike Lennon is greeted by catcher Evan Holahan and coach Kyle Lindsay after closing out Baseball U. Pa.’s victory over the Taconic Rangers
There was a lot of give and take in the Super 17 Invitational battle pitting Baseball U. Pa. and the Taconic Rangers yesterday at Diamond Nation. Big righthander Mike Lennon had the last say, though, in a wildly entertaining finish.
Lennon struck out the Rangers’ dangerous leadoff hitter Sean Camacho with the base-loaded to close out a 6-5 victory and ensure Baseball U. Pa. (3-2) would finish the rugged tournament with a winning record on its last day of summer baseball.
“Mike got some key outs at the end,” said Baseball U. Pa. coach Kyle Lindsay. “His stuff plays well. You know even if he has guys on base he is capable of getting outs when he has to.”
Lennon looked especially imposing when he entered the game in the fifth inning and gassed the first two batters he faced with mid-to-high 80s fastballs. It was an uneventful 1-2-3 inning for Lennon and Baseball U. that bore no resemblance to what lie ahead.
Taconic Rangers reliever Jimmy McCardle would get out of his own dicey situation in the bottom of the fifth to keep his team within a run and give the team from Long Island a shot in their last at bat in the sixth.
Lennon’s command wasn’t as precise in the sixth and the Rangers’ discerning lineup made him work for every out. Nick Mazzatta led off the inning and immediately ratcheted up the pressure by lining a 3-1 pitch into right field for a single. Lennon, a long 6-5 lefty from North Penn (Pa.) High School, then walked Nick Backay to put the go-ahead run on with no outs.
Phil Mascia moved both runners over with an effective sacrifice bunt before Greg Levin drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Lennon thought he caught the outside corner at the bottom of the strike zone on the 3-2 pitch, as did Lindsay.
There would be no easy outs in the sixth for Lennon as evidenced by the at bat by the Rangers’ No. 10 hitter, Nick Ryona. Ryona worked the count to 3-2 and fouled off a pitch before Lennon finally got him to pop it up to second baseman Kyle Krupa for the second out. This meant Lennon would now have to find a way to stare down Camacho to secure the victory.
The lefty-hitting Camacho had been a thorn in Baseball U. Pa.’s side all afternoon. He led off the game by blasting an opposite field home run over the left field fence. He beat out an infield hit in the third inning when the Rangers put two runs on the board. And he drew a walk in the fourth.
Camacho would give Lennon fits, too, working the count to 2-2 before challenging him with a high fastball above the strike zone. Camacho, admirably aggressive in the big spot, couldn’t check his swing and Lennon had shut the door.
“In the moment, you are just trying to get the next strike, the next out,” said Lennon. “That leads to being successful. I just wanted to keep throwing strikes and trust myself and my stuff.”
The first three innings of the game saw all of the runs scored and four lead changes. Alex Evans and Zach Zielinski each drew a bases-loaded walk to put Baseball U. Pa. in front, 6-5, in the bottom of the third. Evan Holahan started the “rally” with a one-out infield single. Matt Edwards was hit by a pitch and R.J. Agriss walked to load them up.
The scoring had come at a much noisier pace in the first couple innings. After Camacho’s game-opening eye-opener put the Rangers in front, 1-0, Adam Agresti stepped in with one out nonchalantly lashed a fastball well over the left field fence for a 2-0 Rangers lead. The ball landed near shortstop of Field 5. Agresti is a 6-2, 205-pound rising sophomore at Kennedy Catholic High (N.Y.).
Holahan drove in Josh Martoccio with a sac fly to center field to shave the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the first. Martoccio had walked with one out and advanced to third on J.J. O’Neill’s single to right.
Levin’s RBI single with two outs in the second pushed the Rangers’ lead to 3-1. Mazzatta had walked and took second on an errant pickoff attempt. Baseball U.’s starter, Robbie Gilchrist, actually struck out the side in the inning.
Baseball U. answered with three runs in the bottom of the second to take its first lead at 4-3. The Philly area squad opened the inning with five straight hits and would have scored more if Evans hadn’t been nailed at the plate by center fielder Camacho trying to score on Zielinski’s single.
Agrissi, Evans and Joe Limongelli started the inning with singles to load the bases. Agrissi scored on a wild pitch and Krupa capped the rally with a two-run double to right-center field.
Taconic hopped right back in front in the top of the third and Agresti was right in the middle of things again. The No. 3 hitter launched another solo home run to left field, this time with two outs. A couple Baseball U. errors led to a second run in the inning as the Rangers took a 5-4 lead.
“It was our goal coming in today to finish the tournament with a winning record,” said Lindsay. “We came out 3-2 and it was our last game of the summer so it was a nice finish. It was a tight ball game with wood bats against a great program. We got some timely hits and Mike did a great job getting us out of a jam.”
Game Note: Lennon, a rising senior, has committed to West Chester University.