Raymond Tong of the Canes NJ/NY cruises into first base with a single in 14U Summer Bash.
By Joe Hofmann
A Mona Lisa it wasn’t.
Or was it?
Canes NY/NJ Yellow players and coaches whooped it up on the field. Fans stood up out of the bleachers and high-fived.
Everyone celebrated a little more than usual, and who could blame them?
The Canes pulled out a wild 1-0 five-inning victory over the Brooklyn Falcons in a 14U Summer Bash tournament game under the lights at Diamond Nation on Saturday night.
This game had as many twists and turns than Coney Island’s biggest roller coaster, probably more. Neither team could cash in on numerous opportunities until the Canes scored a run in the top of the fifth.
And then in the bottom of the fifth, they did what both teams did for every single inning, all game long: Bobbed and weaved and somehow escaped a seemingly impossible jam.
There was not a single 1-2-3 inning the entire game, still only one run was scored.
Both starting pitchers, as well as winning pitcher Nick DeFelice, got themselves into trouble but had the poise and disposition to work out of it.
The Canes won it with their run on an infield error, two stolen bases, and a passed ball.
Hey, whatever works.
“If we had lost,” said Justin Haroz, who scored the winning run,” I’d have been so mad.”
The Canes had Hustling Haroz, so he had no reason to be, and neither did they.
Haroz led off the fifth by smoking a hard grounder to second. Instead of jogging down the line, the 6-foot-1 inch Haroz hustled to first — which came in handy when the second baseman bobbled the ball for a moment — and just beat the throw to first.
“I was thinking all along, ‘I gotta get a hit here,'” Haroz said. “Just get on base any possible way I can.”
While his teammates struggled at the plate during the inning (they wound up striking out three times), Haroz was making things happen on the bases.
First up for Haroz: Getting to second base.
“Coach told me not to steal on the first pitch but to wait,” Haroz said. “The pitcher wasn’t paying any attention to me, so I was safe by a mile.”
Next for Haroz: Get to third.
“He was still not looking,” Haroz said. “He had a slow wind-up, so it was now up to me.”
He stole third by just getting in under the throw.
Next: Score any way possible.
“A lefty pitcher and a righty batter … perfect,” Haroz said. “I was halfway down the line with each pitch. The pitcher couldn’t see me, and neither could the catcher.”
Lefty Caiden Pena’s pitch to No. 11 batter Logan Estrella ticked off the catcher’s glove. That was Haroz’s moment. He flew down the line and scored. He knew he was scoring the moment he began running.
“Yeah,” he said. “The backstop here is deep.”
But the Canes were not out of the woods just yet.
In the bottom of the inning, the Falcons put two runners aboard with no outs. Quel McBride walked and Patrick Devesin singled to left. It was Brooklyn’s first base hit of the game despite having a whopping eight baserunners. Both runners advanced on a steal to put both in scoring position with no outs.
But that’s when DeFelice dug in, getting Noah Leon looking at a curveball for strike 3, Carlos Lalane popped out in foul ground to Haroz near third base, and Beyro was caught looking at a fastball to end it.
DeFelice got out of a two-on, no-out situation in the fourth when he first came in for Estrella to start the frame. He walked David Baez on four pitches, hit Vienly Perez with a pitch and then moved both runners up on a wild pitch before getting Dylan Serrano (pop to short), Danny Balsamo (strikeout) and Pena (pop to left) to end the inning without a single run scoring.
Estrella weaved his way out of trouble in each of his three innings of work. He walked a batter and hit one in the first with one out but got out of it. He escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second and a two-on, one-out crisis in the third.
Pena was just as elusive. He got out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the top of the first thanks to Beyro Pichardo’s 5-2 double play.
In the second, Pena walked two but escaped unscathed. He walked a batter in the third, but the Canes couldn’t bring him in. A Canes batter reached on an error to lead off the fourth but he was stranded.
All told, the Falcons left 11 runners on in just five innings.
The Canes couldn’t get much going when they did get runners aboard, stranding six.
But then the chips were down, they got the run in — Justin Haroz made sure of it.