Julian Gonzalez of the Young Guns scores from second on a wild pitch. He went 3-for-3 and caught full game in the extreme heat.
By Sean Reilly
The heat was extreme, but that didn’t slow catcher Julian Gonzalez of the South Jersey Young Guns on Thursday afternoon at Diamond Nation.
Playing in a game that began at noon with temperatures in the upper 90s in Flemington, Gonzalez did a bit of everything to spark the Young Guns to a 5-3 decision over the Untamed Recruits to complete an unbeaten four-game week for his team at the 18U World Series.
Gonzalez caught the full game for a second straight day, went 3-for-3 with two RBI and even scored an important run from second base on a wild pitch.
According to Gonzalez, the effort was all a matter of respecting the game, as well as his Young Guns teammates.
“If we were losing, it would be a little bit tougher, but since we were winning the game and I love baseball so much, the heat when you are out there doesn’t really affect you,” he said. “My feet need a little bit of a break, but catching for my guys and my pitchers, I love working for them all day. I did it yesterday and did it today, and I loved every second of it.
“I always tell my pitchers that I’m going to work for you, if you’re going to work for me. If they’re going to work for me all seven innings, then I have to work for them for seven innings. That’s why I do it. I’m out there for them. That’s what pushes me through all seven.”
One of those pitchers was starter Drew Zieger, who impressively threw the first six innings. He allowed one run on two hits, with six strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter.
The Young Guns, who ended the tournament 4-0 with a 34-13 run difference, scored three times in the bottom of the third.
Kyle Crozier led off with a first-pitch single to left field, but was forced out on a grounder to first by Pat Karbach, who advanced to third on two wild pitches before Zieger walked on a full count.
That sent Gonzalez to the plate, and his single to left field scored Karbach with the first run. Zieger moved to third and Gonzalez advanced to second on the throw.
With Matt McAleer at the plate, a wild pitch scored Zieger. But that wasn’t the end of the play. As Gonzalez approached third, he saw the defense still hunting for the ball. So he hustled on toward the plate, diving across safely for a 3-0 lead.
“We practice that a lot, always reading the ball and working on dirty ball reads and hustling,” Gonzalez said. “As soon as that ball was kicking around and he didn’t know where it was, I was figuring I was scoring. I probably should have been on it a little quicker, but we practice that all the time so we were on it.”
The Young Guns extended the lead to 4-0 when Rob Carfagno led off the bottom of the third with a home run to left field.
Untamed Recruits, which ended its week with a 1-3 record, got a run back in the top of the fourth. Tyler Bell led off by chopping a ball off the plate that bounced high beyond the pitcher for a single. He then scored when Eli Gottlieb followed with a double to the left field corner.
The Young Guns added what turned out to be an important run in the home half of the sixth inning. Jake Turner led off with a single, but was thrown out trying to score on Crozier’s double into the left field corner. Karbach singled him to third, and then stole second base. A walk to Zieger loaded the bases for Gonzalez, who lined the first pitch to left field for a single and 5-1 lead.
The North Jersey-based Untamed Recruits threatened against the Young Guns’ bullpen in the seventh. Brandon Piacenza led off with a walk and Christian Simonsen doubled him to third. After a pitching change, the next two batters were retired with the runners holding. Back-to-back singles by Derek Wenkowski and Kyle Knoblauch each delivered a run, and put runners on the corners with the go-ahead run at the plate. But reliever Xavier Cortez got a strikeout to end the game.
“It was a great week,” Gonzalez said. “We had a lot of good pitching and hit the ball well.”