East Coast Lumberjacks sweep three games in Super 16 Invitational

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 11, 2024

Joseph Fallon slides home safely in the first inning for the East Coast Lumberjacks, ahead of the tag from Coal Region catcher Trevor Fidler.

By Rich Bevensee

After scoring 12 runs on 11 hits in just five innings in their final showcase game of the weekend and outscoring three opponents, 24-4, the 16U East Coast Lumberjacks looked like one of the best offensive crews in the 60-team pool at the Super 16 Invitational.

But Lumberjacks coach Ryan Pembroke insisted that pitching and defense are the team’s mainstays. Just look at catcher Joseph Fallon and shortstop Ethan Schmutz for proof, he said. 

In the team’s weekend-closing 12-4 victory over Coal Region Sports Red, Fallon allowed just one wild pitch to reach the backstop while keeping baserunners in check, and Schmutz handled five of six chances without error, and two of those plays could fall under the category of sensational.

Offensively, Fallon and Schmutz shined in the weekend finale, going a combined 3-for-4 with two walks, four RBI and four runs scored against Coal Region on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“Ethan is a fantastic defender, and he’s a lot like Fallon since they get underestimated because of their size,” Pembroke said. “But to me, if you look at a catcher and shortstop, you look at footwork and hands, and both have elite footwork and hands. 

“What I like about both of them is they made mistakes and came back to make great plays. That tells you a lot about a kid.”

The Lumberjacks concluded the showcase 3-0 after beating ASBA Futures 2026 White, 8-0, and Pro Skills 16U, 4-0, in a Saturday doubleheader.

Against Coal Region, Fallon was 2-for-3 with three RBI and Jude Allen went 2-for-3 with one RBI. Schmutz, Chris Steeneck and Parker Menechino each singled in a run, Liam Dunkin went 2-for-3 and Liam Anthony had a sacrifice fly RBI. 

The Lumberjacks used an eight-run, 13-batter second inning to claim an 11-0 lead against Coal Region. Five batters drove in runs, and the big shots in that inning were Jude Allen’s RBI double and Fallon’s two-run single.

Lumberjacks Menechino takes a good look at a pitch before delivering an RBI single in the second.

The Lumberjacks took their collective foot off the gas pedal a bit in the top of the third when Coal Region bounced back into the game with four runs, two unearned. Lumberjacks righty Michael Catalano had pitched two scoreless innings before handing off to Finn O’Rourke, who struggled at first with control. He bounced back with a scoreless fourth before A.J. Barr pitched the fifth. 

But in the bottom of the fifth, Allen provided an RBI single to give the Lumberjacks an eight-run cushion and a walk-off, mercy-rule victory. 

“For us the biggest thing is to not have the one inning where we give up a couple runs. We brain-fogged,” Pembroke said. “They’re 16 years old. You put up an eight-spot, we’re throwing pitchers two innings apiece so he (O’Rourke) is sitting around a little bit, wasn’t as sharp early on, and we were flat-footed defensively. You can’t let that happen. I don’t care who you’re playing against, you never let any team – better, worse, same talent – gain an inch. When you got ‘em down, step on their throat.”

The Lumberjacks won’t be grading their entire weekend based on that third-inning hiccup, though. The pitching trio of Catalano, O’Rourke and Barr combined to allow just one hit outside of that inning, and they enjoyed some terrific defense, too. 

Schmutz, in particular, shined at short. In the fourth he ranged to his left to make a sliding stop of a Max Novak grounder up the middle and got to his feet in time to make an on-time throw. Two batters later he went to his right to backhand a grounder in the hole off the bat of Lukas Carpenter and got the force out at second base.

“I work pretty hard on it all season,” Schmutz said. “It’s how you win games.  You can hit in a million games but if you can’t defend you can’t win.”

Schmutz, a rising junior at St. John the Baptist in West Islip, N.Y., said his winter workouts consisted of ladder drills and hurdles, just to name a couple, and he admitted that he dreaded the endless repetition.

“No, it’s not fun, but when you get to the summer I’m glad I did them,” Schmutz said. 

Pembroke praised Fallon for his leadership and his work ethic, something Fallon has spread across his offense and defense. 

Fallon, who transferred from St. Anthony in South Huntington, N.Y. to Miller Place High for his sophomore year, said he completely reworked his swing over the winter while fine-tuning his catching technique. 

“This winter I worked on my hitting a lot, but I think I’m more of a defensive catcher,” Fallon said. “I pride myself on blocking, throwing, and receiving. I love all that.

“I also worked on getting my legs into my hitting and pushing through my top hand for more backspin on the ball and having it fly up the middle. This winter I changed my swing completely and this spring I hit .468.” 

For Coal Region, based in Mount Carmel, Pa., No. 9 hitter and catcher Trevor Fidler was the only batter to collect two hits against the Lumberjacks. Kole Myers had an RBI single, and Carpenter and Caden Hopper each had a base hit. 

Coal Region finished the weekend 1-2. The squad split its Saturday doubleheader, bowing to Pro Skills 16U, 11-6, but rebounded to beat ASBA Futures 2026 White, 7-2.

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