Dylan Knott of Bluerock delivered big, ripping an RBI triple for Bluerock Baseball in the Super 25.
By Rich Bevensee
At first, Todd Louviaux grimaced when asked to choose his favorite team from his 18 years of coaching baseball, so as to not offend the hundreds of players who have played under his guidance, which has spanned from Little League through college.
When pressed, the one which stands out was the Bluerock Baseball club team from the summer of 2013 when his son Danny was a graduating high school senior.
That was the hard part. The easy part for Louviaux was choosing his second favorite – this year’s Bluerock squad, an overachieving group of young men, some of whom he has coached since they were 10 years old.
“The single most important thing for any team is that the kids have to be great teammates, and that’s what we have,” Louviaux said.
Bluerock Baseball continued to chart a marvelous season with their 7-2 victory over the Brooklyn-based New York Nighthawks on Tuesday evening in the 17-18U Wood Bat of the Super Top 25 Showcase at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
With the win, the Bluerock celebrated their final tournament of the summer by sneaking into the four-team playoff. That was thanks partly to top-seeded Wladyka Baseball Blue opting out of the playoffs, a team it fell to, 1-0, in pool play.
On Wednesday Bluerock defeated the Taconic Rangers 3-0 in the semifinals and eventually lost to the PA Shockers, 2-1, in the championship game. All three Bluerock losses this week came by a single run, including a 7-6 loss to the Shockers in pool play on Monday.
“If you have baseball IQ and talent and good grades, the playing takes care of itself,” said the 58-year-old Louviaux, who is an assistant coach at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa. His son Danny, 27, is the school’s pitching coach.
“If I could go back and change the brand, instead of Bluerock Baseball it would be Blue Collar Baseball because that’s how they play. I’ve had a handful of them with me since they were 10. This is always the saddest weekend of my summer. It’s going to be tough saying goodbye.”
Four players have been with Louviaux since they were 10 years old: Fitzgerald, Joe Current, R.J. Emrich and Dalton Furst.
But the farewells may not be as sad as in past seasons. Bluerock has a roster composed entirely of graduating high school seniors, and out of the 10 batters in the BlueRock batting order on Tuesday, eight will continue to play for Louviaux at Alvernia.
One of those future Alvernia players is Fitzgerald, a 6-foot, 190-pound left-hander who pitched a three-hitter with one walk and two strikeouts in 5⅔ innings.
“My change up was good, really on, and toward the end my curveball was getting better, but my fastball was always there,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald, a Kutztown High graduate, was coming off a Hawaiian vacation with his family and hadn’t thrown for two weeks going into the tournament. The layoff didn’t appear to throw off his effectiveness. At one point he retired 10 straight Nighthawks and he didn’t yield a walk until the fifth inning.
The offensive drought was a drastic change for the Nighthawks, who just hours earlier polished off Hustle Baseball with a 17-0 decision.
“It felt good coming back from vacation but I didn’t miss throwing and my arm felt great,” said Fitzgerald, who said he chose not to bring his glove to Hawaii. “I’ve pitched since I was little, so I’ve always been a pitcher. I’m just used to it.”
Bobby Hansen got things started for Bluerock in the first when he walked, stole second and third and scored on Emrich’s fielder’s choice grounder.
Dylan Knott (from Pequea Valley High in Kinzers, Pa.) had the biggest hit of the night for Bluerock, cracking an RBI triple into left to spark a three-run rally in the second inning. Derrick Frances singled home Knott, and he later scored to make it 4-0 when a pickoff throw to third from Nighthawks catcher Kirk Ortega bounced off Frances’ helmet and out of play.
Fitzgerald helped himself with a terrific defensive play in the bottom of the fourth. He deftly scooped up a Fred Hernandez dribbler to the right side and, without taking the ball out of his glove, flipped the ball to first baseman Brad Coley to beat the speedy Hernandez.
Fitzgerald made just one mistake in the game, and Junior Diaz made him pay for it in the bottom of the fifth. Fitzgerald hung a two-seam fastball and Diaz deposited it over the left field fence for a two-run home run, getting the Nighthawks within 4-2.
In the top of the sixth, Bluerock tacked on a few more runs when Frances singled through the middle to drive in Fitzgerald, and leadoff man Gerald DeBalko ripped a two-run single down the left field line.
“I love it when we get runs to start out, shut em’ down and go out and score again,” Fitzgerald said.
Knott finished 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored and a hit by pitch, Frances went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Ben Crescenzi added two hits. James Mueller relieved Fitzgerald with two out in the sixth and struck out the final batter of the game.
Nighthawks starter Julian Ventura pitched four innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with one strikeout. Chris Marlin pitched the final three innings and yielded three runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts.