Luc Bush leads off third after his three-run triple gave Locked In Expos 16U Blue an 8-1 lead.
By Rich Bevensee
The murmurs in the bleachers behind the backstop were as consistent as the walk the TKR Reds were making from home plate back to the dugout.
“Whew.” “Oh my.” “Sheesh.” “Uh-oh.” “Jeez.”
Sean Budis was the cause for all that fan chatter. The slender 6-3 lefty with a whip-like delivery set down batter-after-batter-after-batter with a mid-80s fastball that couldn’t be touched. Looking or swinging, it didn’t matter. Budis was popping the catcher’s mitt and picking up strikeouts like he was in a hurry to get back to the dugout.
Budis navigated some murky waters for half of his four-inning appearance, but the end result was a shining example of what the young southpaw from Kenilworth is capable of this summer.
Budis, pitching for Locked In Expos 16U Blue, registered 11 strikeouts and yielded just one run on one hit with three walks in an 8-1, six-inning victory over the TKR Reds of Staten Island, N.Y., in the Super 16 Invitational Powered by Victus on Saturday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Budis was coming off a three-week hiatus from pitching. He had not pitched since starting an NJSIAA sectional tournament game for his high school team, David Brearley of Kenilworth.
“It’s the best feeling ever to be back out here,” said Budis, a rising junior. “I love playing baseball. It feels great to come out here and strike guys out and continue to do what I’m doing, especially after the three-week break. I always stay active – I throw bullpens when I haven’t pitched in a while. But I did feel like I needed a rest and now I’m 100 percent and ready to go.”
Because the Reds had such difficulty catching up to Budis’ fastball, he threw just four off-speed pitches in his entire 73-pitch performance – three sliders and a change-up. Budis retired the first six Reds batters, all by strikeout, and in those two innings only eight pitches were not called strikes or swung at.
“This is my first time coaching Sean, and he did a great job the first couple innings, getting ahead of everybody,” Expos coach Chris Bagley said. “His fastball was playing up and had some late life. He was overpowering tonight and hitting his spots.”
Budis, pitching with a 2-0 lead, played with fire in the third inning when the bottom of the Reds’ order tried to unhinge the lefty with repeated bunt attempts. He hit the first two batters who were leaning out over the plate flashing the bunt, then picked up two strikeouts. He then loaded the bases with another hit batsman.
Expos first baseman Dominic Correale helped bail out Budis when Reds leadoff hitter Omri Yanov hit a soft liner which curled away from first base. Correale ranged to his left and into foul territory to snag the liner and maintain the shutout bid.
“Usually with righties I like to attack the inside because they don’t really see it coming from a three-quarter arm slot and it gets on them very quickly,” Budis said. “They showed bunt a few times and that caused them to lean over the plate, but I was able to work out of it.”
No sooner had Correale produced a defensive gem when he added to the Expos’ lead in the top of the fourth. He hit a sharp liner to left field which the Reds’ Yanov nearly caught with a sliding catch. While the Reds seemed stunned that the ball was loose, Correale never broke stride and slid into second with a double.
He scored when the next batter, Wesley Maksimow, drove him in with a groundout for a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth Budis found himself in trouble again, this time when he gave up a leadoff infield single to Joe Tutone in which Tutone’s hustle beat out an ordinary ground ball. Budis then began to miss outside with his fastball and walked three straight batters to yield his first run.
How did Budis respond? With three straight strikeouts (on 10 pitches) to conclude his evening.
“I kind of slipped once with my plant foot at the end of the mound and lost feel for my release point,” Budis said, “but I was able to go back to a windup and threw a slider to get my feel back, and then it was straight fastballs and I was able to establish the strike zone again.”
“I told Sean before the game, if you have cleats put ‘em on, and he said, ‘Coach, all I have is my sneakers,’ “ Bagley said. “So he was slipping a little bit on the mound at times. When I went out there after he hit the guys I told him why don’t you cut down your stride a little bit. You’re overpowering them. Let’s get after it and let them put the ball in play.
“In the fourth inning it was the exact same thing, just trying to keep his feet under him. Also his pitch count – he hadn’t pitched in a couple weeks, other than a short outing in a workout on Tuesday. I wanted to get him as many clean innings as I could and get him out while he’s ahead.”
The Expos essentially put the game away with a five-run fifth inning. Cleanup hitter Phil Folmar got the rally started with an RBI double.
Nicholas Dragone followed with a single, Correale walked and Maksimow reached on an error to load the bases. Luc Bush, who came into the game back in the second inning to replace an injured Lucas Durkin, emptied the bases with a triple to the alley in right center, giving the Expos an 8-1 lead.
“We were working on a two-strike approach with him,” Bagley said of Bush. “He was complaining he was out in front of everything, and we told him to stay back and take away the middle and the away half, and try to get on top of it and hit it hard.”
Brandon Kim, a rising junior at Delbarton, took over for Budis and looked impressive, pitching two scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
For the Expos, Folmar finished 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Correale and Santino Czarnecki both scored twice.
The Expos finished the weekend 2-1, having beaten the Reds and Morris County Cubs 16U White. Those wins sandwiched a 6-1 loss to Bucks County Generals 2025.
The loss to the Expos closed the Reds’ weekend at 1-2. TKR lost to Bucks County Generals 2025, 12-0, and rebounded to beat Morris County Cubs 16U White, 10-9.