K.J. Stockert slides into third base during the Expos’ five-run rally in the third inning.
By Rich Bevensee
Once he polished off the first inning by pumping his fastball and striking out the side, the look in Caden Breault’s eyes said it all as he bounded off the mound and into the dugout.
He fully intended on mapping out neat little rows of Ks in the scorebook for the entire game.
And he very nearly did.
Breault came within one out of a five-inning no-hitter, but the lone base hit took none of the luster off an exceptional pitching performance. He recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts and carried Locked In Baseball Expos 17U to an 8-0 victory over Sportika Baseball 16U Blue in the 17/18U Wood Bat division of the Fall Brawl on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“I’m disappointed in myself but I went back out there and struck out the last hitter so I was fine with that,” Breault said, whose strikeout total was twice his previous career best, in high school or club ball.
Breault, a 6-foot, 140-pound righty, finished the first inning and had a 30-second chat with Expos coach John Hornung which framed the strategy for the rest of the game.
“Guys forget that back in the day, if you could get through the lineup once with the fastball, that’s what you were going to do,” Breault said. “But now guys are throwing a lot of breaking stuff. You’re seeing that at a lot of levels. It’s kind of the mentality now.
“I’ve always loved the idea that if you can get through the lineup once with the fastball, you save your pitches. That should get you deeper into the game and that’s what he needed to do today.”
Breault, employing nothing but his high-70s fastball, struck out the side in the second inning and the first batter of the third to make it seven straight to open the game.
Breault walked the next batter, Sportika starting pitcher Christopher Walters, then struck out the next two to end the inning. Not until that inning did a Sportika batter foul off a pitch.
Breault employs a curveball and slider into his regular mix, and he’s developing his changeup and two-seam fastball. But his four-seam is his bread and butter, with good reason.
“I stuck to the fastball because they really couldn’t catch up to it,” said Breault, a junior at Oratory Prep in Summit.
“I liked it (throwing all fastballs),” he said. “Obviously my arm won’t be in pain because it was straight fastballs, just like playing shortstop. I only threw the curve a few times, but when I did throw it I couldn’t locate it too well. Maybe it would have helped if I went to the pen and threw a couple curveballs but I was fine with it honestly. It worked out for me.”
While Breault was whipping through the Sportika lineup his teammates prepared to mount an impressive offensive assault.
No. 10 batter Ryan Santoriello walked to lead off the third inning, and Breault, the Expos’ leadoff hitter, began a string of five straight run-scoring hits with a triple to center field. He said it was his best barreled hit of the entire year.
Eli Frix then singled home Breault. Dalton Ochab doubled in Frix. K.J. Stockert singled in Ochab. And Ryan Lavin’s double scored Stockert to give the Expos a 5-0 lead.
The Expos gave Breault an even bigger cushion to work with in the fourth, scrounging for three runs and an 8-0 lead. Breault and Ochab had RBI singles, and Frix scored on a wild pitch.
Breault went back to work in the fourth and struck out the side.
In the fifth, Breault struck out the first batter, then walked the next two. Stockert, the Expos catcher, upset Breault’s plans to record every out by strikeout when Sportika’s Austin Hardy tried to steal third and Stockert threw him out for the second out of the inning.
“In that last inning when he started missing, I think he was getting a little bit tired,” Hornung said. “He definitely didn’t lose velocity. I think his legs were getting heavy. But he pounded the zone, and even his misses were competitive.”
Caden Breault tripled, singled and drove in 2 runs — and came within an out of pitching a no-hitter.
With one out to go for his first no-hitter, Breault surrendered a base hit to Andrew Aponte who lined a single to left field. Breault’s infield teammates could be heard saying “Awww” when the hit sailed over the left side of the infield.
“I would have loved to see him get the no-hitter but I was proud of the effort that he gave,” Hornung said. “He likes to compete. Whether he’s got his ace effort or not he’s going to give you his best effort. He’ll empty the tank.”
Breault smiled as he retook the mound. He took it in stride to see his no-hitter spoiled. And he refocused enough to strike out the next batter to finish the gem.
“I gotta keep working,” Breault said. “I try to read the batters. If I’m having a bad day pitching I change it up a little bit, but I kept doing my thing and got into a groove. If I can find my rhythm I feel like I can get the job done.”
The Expos’ game against Prospects Baseball Red on Saturday was postponed due to inclement weather. They dropped an 8-0 decision to the Diamond Jacks Super 16U on Sunday morning.
Sportika’s game on Saturday against the Diamond Jacks Super 16U was also postponed due rain. Sportika lost, 12-1, to Prospects Baseball Red on Sunday morning.