Liam Winslow used every bit of deception at his disposal to keep the often noisy bats of Zoom Baseball more on the quiet side on the way to a 3-0 victory for Complete Performance Baseball Academy 18U last night at Diamond Nation.
Winslow shut out Zoom Baseball on one hit over five innings, striking out six and walking two to help secure the 17/18U Wood Bat August Showdown championship.
Complete Performance only managed two hits of its own against equally strong Zoom Baseball pitching but managed to scratch across three runs during the first two innings of the game.
Zoom Baseball had an opportunity for a comeback in its last at bat when reliever Hunter Sabbers issued one-out walks to Jeff Duda and Nick Micciche and hit Ryan Albin with a pitch one out later. But CPBA coach Frank Clark called on John Berko to get the last out and the righthander induced a grounder to shortstop to end it.
But the story was Winslow, who was named the 17/18U August Showdown’s Most Valuable Player. The Rutgers-Newark bound righthander deftly utilized a tantalizing mix of fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and knuckleball to keep the aggressive Zoom lineup guessing.
“That’s a great team over there and we knew how aggressive they are at the plate,” said CPBA coach Frank Clark. “We decided to work backwards and Liam did a great job. He’s an old school, throwback pitcher. He changes speeds and has different grips. He emptied the tank.”
Winslow started many a batter with curveballs for strikes and often got himself in favorable counts, which is critical against a lineup as capable as Zoom Baseball’s.
“It’s a good hitting team,” affirmed Winslow, “so we were pitching backwards most at bats.”
Making Winslow even more troublesome to deal with, aside from the five pitches you have to think about, is the fact that he also changes arm angles, dropping down to sidearm and a bit submarine, too.
“I started that last year,” said Winslow of his changing arm slots. “My fastball was in the low 70s at that point and I was just trying other ways to get hitters out. My slider and changeup were working well from that slot.”
Winslow, a recent Wood-Ridge High grad, went through the first three innings almost completely unscathed. The only batter to reach base, in fact, was Zoom pitcher Kevin Opanel, who Winslow hit with a pitch leading off the third inning.
Meanwhile, Winslow’s teammates had staked him to a 3-0 lead. Lou Fabbo had led off the bottom of the first with a double down the left field line. He advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Spencer Berson’s sac fly to center field. Complete Performance would strike for two more runs in the second courtesy of a bit of wildness by Opanel.
Opanel would actually strikeout the side in the second but the four walks he issued in the inning would bite him. Justin Vanelli drew a leadoff walk to start things but Opanel struck out the next two batters and very nearly escaped the inning cleanly. Vannelli stole second base and moved to third with two outs on a wild pitch. Vin Vargas walked and, when he took off for second early in C.J. Arena’s at bat, Opanel balked. That allowed Vannelli to score and Vargas to take second.
Vargas stole third before Opanel walked Arena to put runners on the corners for No. 10 hitter, Mike Roman. CPBA’s second baseman then exhibited his team’s lineup depth when he laced a single into right-center field to deliver the second run of the inning and extend the lead to 3-0.
Zoom Baseball relievers Tyler Griswold and Ian Petrutz combined to shut out CPBA over its final three at bats, permitting three walks while striking out six.
Winslow, meanwhile, had to extricate himself from some trouble in both the fourth and fifth innings before turning the game over to his bullpen.
The Maryland-bound Petrutz, a rising senior at Clearview High, sports a lethal bat and showed as much when he ripped a double into left-center field with one out in the fourth. Winslow issued a two-out walk to Alex Roessner to bring the tying run to the plate, but he struck out cleanup hitter Rob Buckley to end the threat.
After Winslow walked Adam Gates leading off the fifth, Frank made a trip to the mound to check on his pitcher. And then when Winslow unleashed a wild pitch to the next batter, Vince Commisa, Clark sent an arm to the bullpen to warm up. But Winslow got Commisa to line out to third base, where Arena made a nice over-the-shoulder grap, struck out the next batter looking at a curveball and squelched the threat with a strikeout swinging on a slider.
“Ian was a no-brainer for the MVP award,” said Clark.
Complete Performance Baseball (4-0) outscored its tournament opponents 22-6. Zoom Baseball (3-2) held a 32-14 runs advantage on its opponents.