EEP Bandits steal one late against Tri-State Arsenal

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 20, 2022

EEP Bandits slugger Tyler Nolan swatted a homer and a triple in Super 15 play.

By Rich Bevensee

There were too many heroes to mention, and that’s a good problem to have if you’re EEP Bandits Scout Team 2024 coach Mario Delgado.

Trailing by two runs entering the top of the seventh inning, the roll call began. Andrew Heppner doubled, Jalen David loaded the bases with a walk. Amare Carruthers forced in the tying run with another walk.

And then came a pair of thunderous hits. Angel Santiago rocked a two-run, grounds rule double and Tyler Nolan blasted a two-run triple.

The resulting six-run rally was more than Tri-State Arsenal N.Y. National could overcome, as the Bandits came from behind to steal a 9-5 victory in the Super 15 Invitational on Tuesday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“It’s all a team effort,” Delgado said. “Any given game, any player will come up and come through. No matter what the score is, I always feel we’re going to come through. It’s been like that the entire season. The quality at bats we had in the last inning showed what kind of team we are.”

Immediately following their dramatic victory over the Arsenal, the Bandits improved to 3-0 in the Super 15 event by riding their momentum and wiping out Invaders Baseball, 13-1.

The Bandits conclude their week at the Nation by facing FS Prime 14U today (Wednesday) at 2:15 p.m. Earlier this week the Bandits blanked BBA Academic 15U, 7-0. 

Delgado pointed to Bandits starter Derek Fernandez as another hero after battling through not having his best stuff and getting a no-decision for his five innings of work. He allowed four runs on four hits and seven walks with three strikeouts.

He was lifted in the bottom of the sixth after giving up a seeing-eye single through the left side to Mason Forte, who would eventually come around to score and give the Arsenal a 4-3 lead. 

“I didn’t throw my best but we came out with a win and that’s what matters,” said Fernandez, a rising junior at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx. “That single threw me off there, but it felt great watching my teammates pick me up there in the seventh.”

No doubt Fernandez’s teammates would be quick to point out how he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third inning after giving up only one run. He stranded another runner in scoring position in the fourth, pitched a scoreless fifth and was lifted after one batter in the sixth, finishing his night with 80 pitches.

Tri-State Arsenal’s Joe LaScala tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth with a ground out.

“He’s our bulldog,” Delgado said. “He didn’t have his best stuff today but he went through the motions and kept us in the game. We took him out because of his pitch count. We had a number in mind and he was coming out no matter what. But he showed a lot of guts out there. He showed what kind of pitcher he is.”

Nolan, a rising junior at Mahwah High, was the captain of the Bandits lumber company, slugging a solo home run in the fourth inning and that two-run triple in the seventh which capped the Bandits’ six-run rally.

“We had to support his (Fernandez’s) back,” said Nolan, who hit his second homer of the summer. “Everyone on the team is close and we had to come through after struggling for most of the game. There was a little doubt there in the seventh, but we had 2-3-4 coming up and we have all the confidence in the world to come through. When we have all the confidence in the world, we play so much better together, and today it showed.”

Heppner took over for Fernandez in the sixth and the Arsenal scratched him up for a run and to extend the lead to 5-3. Matthew Lembo, son of coach Steve Lembo, stroked an RBI single to left and Mike Orgera drove in Arsenal’s second run of the inning with a ground out.

In the seventh, Eli Delgado got the Bandits going with a single to left off Arsenal reliever Aidan Emerich. Eric Wallick reached on a fielder’s choice and Heppner, showing he had moved on from his disappointing sixth inning on the mound, pushed runners to second and third with a monstrous double to left center.

Jalen David walked to load the bases, and the Bandits made it 5-4 when the Arsenal failed to get an out at home on a fielder’s choice ground ball by Rodney DeJesus, allowing Wallick to score. 

The Arsenal didn’t miss a second chance to get an out at home on Sean Sweeney’s short chopper, leaving the Bandits down to their last out. But Carruthers then walked on four close pitches – “A great at-bat,” Delgado said – to force in the tying run. 

Santiago and Nolan took it upon themselves to set off the fireworks. Santiago, hitless in two at bats with a walk to that point, blasted a double which bounded over the left center field fence, scoring DeJesus and Sweeney for a 7-5 lead.

Nolan then ripped his second laser of the game, a screaming triple to the right center field wall which drove in Carruthers and Santiago for the final margin.

Unlike the sixth, Heppner had no difficulty setting down the Arsenal in the seventh inning, allowing only a walk to Sean Buchanan before getting a strikeout to put the victory in the books. Heppner pitched two innings and gave up only an inherited run on two hits and a walk with one strikeout. 

Arsenal starter Dane Rue was exceptional for four innings, reaching 80 miles per hour on the radar gun while allowing two runs on two hits and no walks with two strikeouts. 

Emerich pitched 2⅔ innings and permitted seven runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks. Daniel Pignataro got the final out of the seventh inning.

Tri-State Arsenal fell to 1-2 after the Bandits game. They lost to Dirtbags 15U Mann-Up NY, 5-1, before shutting out Invaders Baseball, 9-0. The Arsenal closes out the week with a 10 a.m. game on today against the Staten Island Orioles.

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