Matt Krul’s fourth inning at bat proved crucial to Syracuse Storm adding an insurance run.
By Rich Bevensee
When his pitching goes sideways and the ball just isn’t darting and dipping the way he wants it to, Ryan Campbell has two sources of motivation from which to choose.
There’s his dad and Syracuse Storm coach, Bob Campbell, whose method of counsel is, well, let’s call it tough love. Both Campbells chose not to repeat what gets said during a pitcher’s mound meeting. Some things are not for publication for a family website.
Then there is Storm catcher Tino Michitti, who employs various forms of comic relief to calm his pitcher. Several times during a game you can see the younger Campbell grinning and chuckling as he takes a throw back from Michitti.
On Saturday afternoon, the catcher-coach combination was the perfect antidote for the righty Campbell, whose velocity and location were, by his standards, less than spectacular.
Campbell scuffled through six innings but his complete game effort was enough to stifle Baseball U Pa. Higgins, 5-2, in a 17U-18U Summer Finale pool play game at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Campbell yielded two earned runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts, and he added a sacrifice fly RBI to help his cause.
“I was having trouble locating my fastball so I threw a lot of curveballs – a lot,” said Campbell, a rising junior at Westhill High in Syracuse. “When it seems like I can’t throw, at least one of my pitches will be working, and if I have to throw 50 curveballs I’ll do that.”
Michitti saw that Campbell was throwing 59-footers in pre-inning warmups and growing more aggravated with each pitch. Enter Michitti the comedian.
“He was struggling to locate his fastball so he looked like he was a little upset about that,” Michitti said. “When he’s struggling with location, I’ll go out and talk to him. If it’s a eight-hole hitter I’ll say, Ry, this kid’s an eight-hole hitter, he can’t touch you. You got this.”
“He comes out to calm me down,” Campbell said. “Tino makes me laugh. He’s not the most normal kid. He comes out and says funny things to me.”
Of course Michitt’s humor can only do so much, and Campbell’s ineffectiveness was causing him to lose focus, at least in his father’s opinion. Coach Campbell didn’t like his son’s body language after he surrendered a one-out single in the top of the sixth, so a mound visit was warranted.
“Some of that’s private, but let’s just say I told him to trust his stuff,” Bob Campbell said. “It seemed like there were a couple batters where he was down on himself because he wasn’t able to throw the pitches he wanted.”
“I don’t think I can repeat what he said,” Ryan Campbell said with a laugh. “I had bad body language so it was along those lines.”
Campbell couldn’t explain why he had such trouble with location on Saturday. He said he pitched a week earlier and experienced no such problems.
The good thing for Campbell was he didn’t completely lose focus. He had the wherewithal to ask Michitti to relocate his catcher’s mitt for fastballs since he kept missing in the same spot.
“I had Tino switch where he was putting his glove,” Campbell explained. “He moved it up and in, instead of low, and it actually helped me.”
Michitti, a rising junior at Maine-Endwell High in Endwell, N.Y. (near Binghamton), estimated Campbell threw mostly fastballs through the first two innings. Campbell changed gears to account for his location difficulties by mostly throwing curveballs through the middle innings, at least 80 percent curveballs by Michitti’s account.
“Ryan never shook me off with the curveball today,” Michitti said. “He was really confident with his curveball, really on point, maybe his best this summer.”
“Ryan was really grinding, having trouble throwing strikes,” Bob Campbell said. “He’s normally a control pitcher and today he just couldn’t find the zone. But he found a way to grind through it and trusted his pitches. That was a lot of our conversations today.
“I thought he did a great job outlasting the other team.”
Campbell and the Storm earned a Saturday doubleheader sweep with the victory; they defeated the WC Dragons, 5-4, in the morning. Syracuse faces the South Jersey Blue Jays on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. before playoffs begin.
Baseball U settled for a Saturday split of their games, having defeated the Blue Jays 9-4 earlier Saturday. Baseball U will close out pool play against the WC Dragons on Sunday at 2:15 p.m.
The Storm handed Campbell an early cushion by scoring three runs (one earned) in the bottom of the first inning.
Aiden Kerr scored from second when Campbell singled and the ball was bobbled in the shallow outfield. Then Jackson Grier plated Tyler Campbell (Ryan’s older brother and a 2022 Westhill graduate) with an opposite field single. The incoming throw sailed out of play, allowing Dante Santos to score.
Baseball U quickly climbed back into the ballgame with two runs in the top of the second. Colton Rinehimer had an RBI single to center and Ben Keil added an RBI single to left, bringing the Scranton-area club within 3-2.
The Storm added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a quirky play. With runners on first and second and none out, Matt Krul popped up to shallow center, and Baseball U shortstop Nick Ruiz appeared to lose the ball in the sun, as it caromed off his glove, allowing Krul to reach safely.
Michitti then grounded into what would have been an inning-ending double play had Krul been retired, but the play scored Devin Kobasa from third for a 4-2 Storm lead.
In the fifth, Ryan Campbell drove in Kerr with a sacrifice fly to center for the game’s final run.
Baseball U starter Caleb Butczynski went 2⅓ innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Reliever Elias Owens pitched 2⅔ innings and yielded two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk with four strikeouts.