Gus Wright of Philadelphia Prime dives safely into third base with a two-run triple.
By Sean Reilly
Mekhai Smith relied heavily on his slider and curveball on the mound for Philadelphia Prime on Wednesday afternoon at the Diamond Nation Super 16 World Series.
But something else in his arsenal was just as valuable in the outing against Untamed 16U – a strong pickoff move that eliminated three base runners.
By erasing those runners, along with a fourth that was thrown out trying to steal by catcher Matthew Hartstein, Philadelphia Prime was able to severely limit Untamed’s scoring chances.
And at the same time, Prime’s offense was able to be opportunistic enough to score runs in batches, enough so that it was able to build up enough of a lead to finish off a 9-1 victory in the fifth inning in Flemington.
“It was very hot out there,” said Smith, a rising senior at Lower Merion High School. He allowed three hits, with four strikeouts and four walks. Only one of the seven Untamed runners advanced beyond second base, thanks in large part to those outs recorded on the bases.
Vince Graziano scores the lone run for Untamed 16U on a second-inning rundown.
“I have a very good coach and we’ve been practicing that for a long time,” Smith said. “Any time you can eliminate base runners and save pitches, it’s great.”
Philadelphia Prime scored runs in all five of the innings, even though the first batter was retired in four of them.
That trend began in the bottom of the first, when the leadoff man flew out to center field, and Christian Strunk, Smith and Nick Elvanian all walked to load the bases. Francis DeAngelo then grounded out to shortstop, with Strunk scoring from third. With runners now on second and third, Hartstein hit a grounder to third. Instead of throwing over to first for the out, the fielder tagged out Elvanian, but not before Smith crossed with the second run.
The Central Jersey-based Untamed scored its only run in the second inning, but after the first out was recorded on a pickoff. Vince Graziano hit a triple when the center fielder tried to make a shoestring catch, and he scored on a rundown after wild pitch. That batter walked, and was also picked off by Smith for the third out.
Philadelphia Prime added two more runs in the third. With one out, Chet Ebert singled between third base and shortstop. Isaiah Negron walked, and both scored when Gus Wright tripled on a ball ripped past third base and down the left field line for a 4-1 lead.
The third inning was the only inning where Philadelphia Prime had its leadoff runner reach base.
Elvanian, who went 2-for-2 with a walk, led off with a single through the middle. DeAngelo walked, and Hartstein was safe on a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed, loading the bases.
The next batter grounded into a double play that also scored Elvanian. Ebert was hit by a pitch to place runners on first and third for Negron. DeAngelo scored on a wild pitch before Negron hit an RBI single to center to score Ebert for a 7-1 score.
The first Prime batter in the fourth inning grounded out to third, but Smith followed with a double to right center. Elvanian then hit an RBI single to center.
Winning pitcher Mekhai Smith accepts congratulations from Prime catcher Matthew Hartstein.
Prime’s leadoff batter in the fifth grounded out to shortstop. Gavin McClafferty walked, and Ebert was again hit by a pitch. With Negron at the plate, a wild pitch advanced the runners, and a second wild pitch during the at-bat scored McClafferty to end the game.
“A lot of things happened to make my job easier,” Smith said. “My teammates did a great job today.”
The win improved Philadelphia Prime to 1-1 in the tournament. It lost a 4-3 game to PS2 Academy on Tuesday. It also plays Canes NY 16U on Thursday and concludes the event against Game On Fury Elite on Friday morning.
Untamed (0-2-1) finishes up against Game On Fury Elite on Thursday afternoon.