Sports Zone’s Ethan Gregory leads off first after a fifth-inning infield single.
By Rich Bevensee
It doesn’t matter whether baseball feeds the Fields family, or the Fields feed baseball.
Either way, it’s a winning formula which allows the Fields father to see his sons flourish in the game he played and now teaches.
On Saturday afternoon, with his elder brother’s work ethic in his back pocket and his dad’s pitch calling in the dugout, Braden Fields fashioned five shutout innings and carried the Frozen Ropes Outlaws of Albany, N.Y. to a 5-0 pool play victory over Sports Zone of Syracuse, N.Y. in the 16U Grand Slam at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Fields, a sophomore at Colonie Central High in Albany, allowed three hits and two walks while striking out six and employing a slider, a two-seam fastball and changeup.
“I used the slider a lot today. In every count. I saw them swinging and missing so I kept doing it,” said the 5-10, 140-pound righthander.
“We try to teach the guys at this level to throw off-speed pitches in fastball counts,” said Fields’ dad and Outlaws coach Dave Fields. “If you can do that consistently – keep them off balance and everybody’s guessing while you’re staying in the zone – then you can pretty much beat any team at any level.”
Part of the credit for Fields’ success Saturday with the slider goes to his father, who calls pitches from the dugout. Dave Fields pitched for Siena College in 1996 and 1999-’00.
“Our philosophy is I’m a strong suggestion,” the elder Fields said. “They rely on it but they know they can shake me off, and I’ve taught them to have a reason if they do shake me off. I teach them what I’m thinking and hopefully they learn something from that and slowly they can take over down the road.”
Fields needed to be sharp Saturday because offense came at a premium for both teams. The Outlaws broke up a scoreless game in the bottom of the third inning by scratching out two runs, the first on a Devin Moulden RBI groundout and the second on an Aiden Creamer RBI fielder’s choice.
The Outlaws didn’t add any more insurance until their last at bat in the bottom of the sixth when they tacked on three unearned runs. Fields happened to lead off that frame with a triple down the left field line and he soon scored on an outfield error.
“When it’s a close game I work the zone low so I get ground balls. They can’t hit it over the outfielders heads, so we have a better chance of a ground ball out,” Fields said.
“When he throws a game like that and looks good, it makes me look good,” the elder Fields said.
Dave Fields added that he believes his son has made great strides in his physicality and maturity thanks to Braden’s older brother David, who now pitches for Division 3 Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.
David Hunter of the Outlaws scores games’ first run on a Devin Moulden single in the third inning.
“David was a very, very hard worker in the weight room who got the most out of his ability, and I think Braden’s starting to mirror that,” coach Fields said. “He had a big maturity jump from last year to this year. He would never admit it but I think his brother’s work ethic wore off on him. I don’t think he’d admit that.”
Fields waited a beat. “Yet.”
Jackson Mackenzie took over for Fields in the sixth and pitched two scoreless innings, with no hits or walks and two strikeouts. Also for the Outlaws, Jackson Cox singled twice and David De La Vega doubled.
Arjun Viswanathan was the hard-luck losing pitcher for Sports Zone. Viswanathan pitched six innings and allowed five runs (two earned) on eight hits and one walk with four strikeouts. Four of those hits were due to miscommunications in the field.
The win was a nice bounce-back effort for the Outlaws (1-1), who lost to PA Rebels Maroon, 13-2, earlier on Saturday. The Outlaws have one pool play game remaining, against Diamond Jacks Super 16U on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Sports Zone (0-2) endured a tough Saturday, bowing to the Diamond Jacks, 15-0, earlier in the day. The visitors from Syracuse face PA Rebels Maroon on Sunday at 10 a.m.