By Will Harrigan
USA Prime Northeast Stars coach Chris Caprio says he always has faith in his team to win, particularly at Diamond Nation, where their program has had success.
“These guys have been playing with me for a few years now. We only had nine guys today and it’s the end of the year. But I always believe in them,” Caprio says.
While that faith was put to the test in a big way – they were in a deep hole in the middle innings – his boys came through for him and ended their summer with a tremendous comeback.
Trailing by five runs going into the fourth inning, the Stars scored 10 unanswered runs to secure an 11-6 victory over the Beacon Bulldogs and the 16U Summer Finale White Bracket championship on Sunday afternoon.
In a game that featured a rare occurrence of three home runs, Sam Taylor – who launched the go-ahead, three-run blast in the fourth inning – took home MVP honors for the Stars.
Northeast Prime was the only 16U team at ‘The Nation’ to go undefeated and untied over the weekend, finishing 5-0 and outscoring its opponents 53-18. The Bulldogs returned to the Hudson Valley with an impressive 3-1 showing in the tournament.
Taylor’s home run ball capped off a six-run explosion in the fourth to completely alter the outcome of the game.
With two men out, Taylor got a hold of a fastball and parked a line drive laser over the dugout in left field to put the Stars ahead, 7-6.
“I knew our offense would come around and crack their pitching,” said Taylor. “That was an inside pitch and I actually got jammed a bit. I thought it was going to stay in for a second but it just kept carrying.”
Jason Brown and Marco Christopher, scoring on Taylor’s blast, each singled in a run to draw the Stars within 6-4 prior to the homer. Nine-batter Lawson McIntosh also contributed to the rally, driving in a run on a sacrifice fly to right with the bases loaded and no one out.
Meanwhile, Stars starter McIntosh had a tale of two different games pitched within the same game.
McIntosh surrendered six runs in the first three innings, including a two-run home run served up to Beacon’s Mercer Jordan in the first inning to put his squad in a hole.
USA Prime’s Sammy Taylor was named 16U White Summer Final MVP.
But McIntosh circled the wagons and pitched a scoreless fourth, fifth, and sixth to put it away, not so much as allowing a single Bulldog to reach scoring position.
“(Lawson’s) issue is usually control, walking too many guys. But that wasn’t happening today,” Caprio said. “He had left a few pitches where they shouldn’t have been, but once he settled in he was great.”
Beacon’s Jack Antalek and Liam Murphy doubled and tripled in runs, respectively, in the second to help extend the lead to 5-1 after two. A Derrick Heaton single to center extended the lead to 6-1.
Looking for insurance with the game clock winding down, the Stars added four runs in the sixth. Fenton, 3-for-3 with a walk in a fine hitting performance, tripled in a run shortly after Dominick Inzilla launched a home run of his own to drive two in.
The tournament victory ended the summer in style for the USA Prime Northeast, which won its first tournament of the campaign after several championship game losses.
“It’s always good to go out with a win,” Caprio said. “We won our share of games this summer but had nothing to show for it.”
Cole Fenton singled in the first Stars run in the second inning.