Big fifth inning powers resilient MVP Beast

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 12, 2022

MVP Beast Starting pitcher George Adams delivers a pitch during Thursday’s game.

By Steve Merrill

Extra-hitter Ben Salomon belted a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning to put MVP Beast Underclass ahead and carry them to a dramatic 9-5 victory over Team Elite Liberty in the 16U Blue Chip Prospects tournament on Thursday afternoon.

Trailing 5-4 after surrendering the lead in the previous half of the fifth inning, MVP Beast rattled off five runs in the bottom of the inning before the time limit hit to secure the win. Salomon doubled with the bases loaded to make it 6-5 and then two batters later pinch hitter Ayden DesLauriers smacked a three-run home run to left field to put the nail in the coffin.

“The boys are resilient,” said MVP Beast head coach Pete Kritikos. “They like the competition and that was a really good team we played. They stepped up for it. They’re battle-tested at this point, they’re a good group.”

Salomon had struck out and walked in his first two plate appearances, not putting the ball in play. But it didn’t alter his confidence at all.

“My first at bat I looked at three strikes,” Salomon said. “So my last at bat I just wanted to drive anything. It felt good until my friend (DesLauriers) went yard. That was awesome.”

Alex Baaden led off the fifth with a double for Elite Liberty and then came a controversial moment in the game. Logan Charboneau launched a deep fly ball down the left field line that was initially called foul by the home plate umpire. After consulting with the base umpire, the call was overturned and it was a home run, tying the game at 4-4.

Team Elite Liberty starting pitcher Aaron Babaev did it all, reaching base three times, scoring twice and driving in a run. 

MVP Beast Reliever Trey Zaffrio hit the next two batters. Mike Oliveto then singled in Aaron Babaev to give Liberty Elite a 5-4 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.

MVP Beast starting pitcher George Adams’ line for the day was three innings, one hit, two runs allowed, four walks, and four strikeouts.

“I think he was trying to feel too much,” said Kritikos. “He could’ve pounded the zone a little more but he’s got an exceptional arm. I think he’s going to be a great fit for a college.”

Babaev (Liberty Elite’s starter) helped himself by getting his team on the board with the game’s first run in the top of the third. After Baaden walked to leadoff, he stole second and third and was able to trot in on Babaev’s single up the middle.

The inning extended after a walk and hit by pitch to load the bases for John Veer, who flew out to center to bring in Babaev and make it 2-0 Liberty Elite. Mateo Marino was then thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch to end the inning.

Two errors by Elite Liberty helped MVP Beast respond in the bottom of the third with two runs to tie the game back up at 2-2. Tommy Ford started the inning off with a double over the third base bag. After initially trying to sacrifice bunt, leadoff man Jeremy Reyes singled Ford home and then advanced to second base after the ball was bobbled in the outfield.

A groundout moved Reyes over to third for Paul Dulanto. Dulanto flared one just beyond third base and the ball was dropped as Reyes scored to tie the game.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, MVP Beast would take their first lead of the game. After two walks and a wild pitch to start the inning with runners on second and third, Liam Cochrane laid down a perfectly executed safety squeeze to bring in the go ahead run and make it 3-2. Ford then walked to load the bases and that was all for Babaev, who ended his day with 3.1 innings pitched, allowing two hits, four runs with five walks and four strikeouts.

Baaden came in to relieve Babaev and, after getting a fly out for the second out, walked Alex Apicella to bring in the inning’s second run and give MVP Beast a 4-2 lead after four.

“It’s very important to stay composed,” Salomon said. “You can’t be nervous. It’s easy to lose your composure and swing and strikeout, put your head down, and go back to the dugout. But when your team is able to stay positive, it adds more energy to the dugout.”

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