By Rich Bevensee
Riley Burroughs was wearing the jersey of another player who was no longer with the team, but after Sunday night’s heroics, there’s nothing but a slim chance anyone will forget his name.
Burroughs, with the wrong name across his back, came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning in a tie game with the bases loaded and two out.
Relying on his experience in winner-take-all situations, Burroughs calmly lashed the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off base hit and lifted the Slim’s Chance Bulldogs to a thrilling 4-3 victory over Northern Westchester Outlaws Amoroso 17/18U in the Blue Bracket final of the August Showdown at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“That was awesome. To turn around at first base and see everyone ecstatic, it’s the best feeling ever,” said Burroughs, who graduated from Red Lion Christian Academy in the spring and will continue his studies in the fall at William Peace University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I was in left field the last inning and I was thinking if I come up to bat it’s gonna have to be bases loaded, two outs,” Burroughs said. “For my last travel game that would be a great way to end it.”
Bulldogs shortstop Zane Bohn, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, singled to load the bases before Burroughs’ clutch at bat.
“Riley’s at bat was amazing. I’m not normally an emotional guy but at the end I was pumped,” said Bohn, an uncommitted rising senior at Caravel Academy. “I was at first and I called out to Riley right before the pitch – I told him a fastball was coming and he got a line drive. I saw three straight in my at bat. I told him it was flat with a four-seam spin. He got the job done.”
Bohn, a rising senior at Caravel Academy in Glasgow, Del., was one of the team’s hitting stars, going 3-for-3 with a double, walk, RBI and run scored. He also relieved starting pitcher Shawn Roy and allowed one run on two hits over three innings. He struck out seven and walked four.
Bulldogs coach Bryan Greenwell said Bohn (6-4, 175) is not among the team’s normal rotation of pitchers, but that he can be counted on to throw strikes.
“All around he does everything we ask him to do and he does everything well,” Bulldogs coach Bryan Greenwell said.
“I just try to stay locked in and I know I at least have to get it over the plate,” said Bohn, who used a fastball, curve and changeup to do the job. “I can throw a little bit so I battle through it.”
The Bulldogs, who train at Slim’s Sports Complex in Middletown, Delaware, closed out their 5-0 weekend with back-to-back wins over the Outlaws program. In the semifinals, the Bulldogs knocked off Northern Westchester Outlaws Rivera, 8-0, in five innings.
With the victory, Slim’s Chance also secured its second straight tournament championship. Last weekend, the Bulldogs won the West Chester University Summer Showcase at the Maplezone Sports Institute in Aston, Pennsylvania.
Greenwell confirmed his team has made its final appearance of the summer, and thus will not appear in Diamond Nation’s Super 17 Top 25 Aug. 14-18. The Bulldogs automatically qualified for that event after placing fourth in Week 2 of the Super 17 Invitational in June.
Bohn, who loaded the bases with his seventh-inning single, tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth with an RBI single to right to score Sameer German. Rhett Robbins tried to score the go-ahead run from second but was cut down at home by Outlaws right fielder Jason Douglas.
In the seventh, the Bulldogs had one on with two out before Caleb King and Bohn rapped consecutive singles to load the bases. Then came Burroughs.
“I expected exactly what he just did,” Burroughs said. “I always tell the kids to go up there and be you. I don’t like to talk to the guys and make them nervous.”
There’s no substitute for experience, and Burroughs estimated he’s been in a potential walk-off situation four or five times in his career, including one last month in which he hit a game-winning double. A volume of experience like that can turn a potentially stressful at bat into an extremely comfortable one.
“I like being in that spot because I’m in control and I want to be the guy who has that opportunity,” Burroughs said. “When you’re younger, you’re thinking I gotta’ get this walk-off. Now it’s another at bat and I’m trying to get an RBI for the team.”
The game itself was a thriller from beginning to end, and were it not for Burroughs’ dramatic at bat, the main topic could very well have been the Outlaws’ starting outfield of Douglas, a rising senior at Yorktown High in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.; center fielder Austin Pagliettini, a rising senior at Walter Panas in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.; and left fielder Jack Mannion, a recent graduate of Kennedy Catholic Prep in Somers, N.Y. The strong-armed trio accounted for four assists.
The Bulldogs struck first when Rhett Robbins stroked an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. He was later erased when Caleb King flew out to left and Mannion threw a laser to second to double up Robbins, clearly confused about how many outs there were.
Zane Bohn of Slim’s Chance Bulldogs was named the 17/18U August Showdown MVP.
In the bottom of the second the Bulldogs added another run on a Roy RBI groundout for a 2-0 lead. One batter later, the Outlaws’ Douglas chalked up his first assist of the game when he caught a Nate Golden fly ball and fired a strike to third to nab Burroughs, trying to tag up, for an inning-ending double play, the team’s second in as many innings.
The Outlaws tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the third. Joe Lanza scored from third on a double steal after Will Lent initiated the play by breaking for second. Lent later scored the tying run on a two-out, infield throwing error.
Pagliettini chalked up his team’s third outfield assist in as many innings after catching a German fly ball in center and gunning down Dom Liguori at first.
Continuing the Outlaws impressive display of defense, second baseman Ryan Kim prevented the Bulldogs from taking the lead in the fourth with a diving stop of a Golden ground ball with two out.
Charged by Kim’s play, the Outlaws took their first lead of the game, 3-2, in the top of the fifth when Lanza singled through the right side to drive in Douglas.
The Bulldogs quickly countered with the tying run in the bottom of the fifth on Bohn’s two-out, RBI single. Douglas followed up with his second assist of the game, throwing out Robbins at home.
Slim’s Chance began its undefeated weekend march with victories over Red Hawks 17U, 9-1, Prospects Baseball Red, 11-1, and Sandlot Baseball Academy, 8-3 in pool play.
For the Bulldogs, Roy threw four innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Jay Duncan was Mr. Offense for the Bulldogs, going 3-for-4 with a triple and a run scored. Robbins also had two hits.
Outlaws-Amoroso, which trains at Gap2Gap Sports Performance in Mahopac, N.Y., reached the final by knocking out Dodgers Nation, 5-1, Bucks County Generals 2024’s, 3-1, and the Sharks Baseball Club, 7-3. The Outlaws then eliminated PA Shockers 17U, 3-2, in the semifinals.
For the Outlaws, starter Lent lasted five innings and permitted three runs on eight hits and three walks. Jake Nargi pitched 1⅔ innings and allowed one run on three hits and one walk with one strikeout. Colin Krebs relieved Nargi and gave up the final two hits of the game.
Offensively for the Outlaws, Lanza singled and walked twice, drove in a run and scored once.