Matt Testa (22) is greeted by teammates after he and Johnny Cangelosi scored for the FB Braves.
By Rich Bevensee
If the Flores Baseball Braves 10U squad was a wind-up toy, the reckless abandon with which their players run the bases makes it look as if they’re operating a high-speed merry-go-round.
No opportunity is wasted to take an extra base with this Braves group, and they proved on Saturday, with their approach, no opposing team’s lead is safe.
Nate Bowness, Luca Bonura and Matt Testa each raced around the bases on ordinary balls in play, and their aggressive baserunning helped the Braves snag a come-from-behind 10-4 victory in five innings over Llanerch Hills Baseball of Drexel Hill, Pa., in pool play of the Home Run Classic Powered by Victus at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“It’s really fun running like that, trying to score runs and win games,” Testa said. “It’s really important to get every base you can because if we don’t do baserunning right, we don’t score runs. Hits or errors, doesn’t matter. Gotta’ score runs to win the game. Gotta’ keep going, score or do your best to get to the next base. That was probably our best game of the season.”
Andrew “Dippy” Nazare was by far the most determined Braves player to get around the bases, scoring from first on a Bryce Sanchez single through the middle in the bottom of the fourth inning.
One batter after Testa’s jaunt tied the game at 4-4, Nazare reached on a base hit. When Sanchez slapped one through the middle, Nazare was in full gallop and never broke stride, even when the return throw reached the infield. It appeared the Llanerch Hills players were stunned that Nazare was basically daring them to throw him out as he scooted home with the go-ahead run.
“The reason I didn’t stop is because I saw how close the game was and I needed to score and help my team,” Nazare said. “When we see people being aggressive, we love to be aggressive and get any extra bases we can.
The Braves fell into a 4-0 hole after one half-inning when LLanerch Hills broke out the lumber. In a four-batter stretch, Nick Kozub and Jay Lord launched RBI doubles, and Rocco Maggitti and Eoin Roney followed with run-scoring singles.
“The owner of our facility and program, A.J. Flores, teaches the kids from day one that it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says, you play every pitch like it’s Game 7 of the world series, and they believe that,” Braves coach Nick Nazare said. “We’ve been down 11-2, 11-3 with three outs to go, and the kids fight like it’s the World Series and it’s an amazing atmosphere. They just believe in themselves.”
The Braves’ style of play was the great equalizer, in Nazare’s opinion.
Bowness was the first to execute, driving a hard hit grounder through an infielder’s legs and through an outfielder’s wicket as well and to the outfield wall. Bowness’ ramble got the Braves on the board in the bottom of the second inning.
In the fourth, the Braves exploded. Bonura repeated Bowness’ feat, singling up the middle and getting the ball through an outfielder. He rounded the bases to make the score 4-2. Testa’s two-run scamper tied the game. Nazare scored from first on a Sanchez single.
Bowness added an RBI single and Chase Rich ripped an RBI double to give the Braves a 7-4 lead.
“We actually teach that every day at practice, that we’re going to put the pressure on the other team no matter what the score is,” Nick Nazare said. “We want to make sure they beat us and we don’t beat ourselves. At this age, forcing the defense of 10, 11-year old boys to make perfect plays with our speed? It’s a very difficult formula to deal with.”
The Braves padded their lead in the fifth with three more runs. James Ventola reached on a fielder’s choice and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Bonura singled, stole second and was in the process of swiping third when an errant throw allowed him to turn and take home. And Johnny Cangelosi walked and eventually scored on a passed ball.
The Braves (2-0), who earlier beat Santos Baseball 10U, 4-0, completed pool play as the only unbeaten 10U team and earned the top seed for a 12:15 p.m. semifinal game against fourth-seeded Llanerch Hills (0-2) on Sunday. The 10U championship game is slated for 4:30 p.m.
Llanerch (pronounced Lan-arc) Hills lost to Hustle Baseball Academy, 10-7, shortly before its game with the Braves.