The Finch’s Aces 16U squad may be 1-2-1 but they are playing well enough to be a dangerous playoff team as the Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals winds through the second day of pool play games at Diamond Nation on Tuesday.
The playoffs pairings for Wednesday afternoon will be set after all pool play games are completed Tuesday evening.
Avery Spalter singled home Sage Snyder with one out in the bottom of the fifth to tie Syracuse Sports Zone 18U, 4-4. Melissa Martinez nearly delivered Spalter, who had taken second base on the late throw home, with the winning run and the time limit looming. But third baseman Gracie Bishop made a nice stab of Martinez’s low liner for the second out.
Syracuse Sports Zone pitcher Sam Morgan then induced a pop out to first base to end the game. The win improved the Syracuse team’s record to 2-0-1 with a Tuesday afternoon game remaining in pool play. That 2-0-1 record and a 23-9 runs advantage had Syracuse Sports Zone sitting atop the 16/18U standings.
“We’ll have to see how it goes,” says Finch’s Aces 16U coach Anthony Rotundo. “It looks like we’ll have to win three playoff games since the top two seeds get byes.” The 16U Aces will likely get a first round playoff game at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The 16U Aces had a 3-1 run lead erased in the top of the fifth when Syracuse Sports Zone struck for three runs on five hits. Morgan singled through the left side, Holland Hawkes singled to center field and Andrea Sumida hit a chopper over third baseman Martinez’s head to load the bases with no outs.
Sid Chafee then singled to center field to score Morgan before Bishop hit a hard liner off the tip of second baseman Abby Edson’s glove into right field for a two-run single and a sudden 4-3 lead. Sarah Wardzinski relieved starter Sarah DeStefano and did an amazing job stemming the Syracuse tide. Wardzinski (photo top of page) got three straight outs without permitting a run to keep the Aces within a run.
“We had some bad luck in that inning,” said Rotundo. “Sarah did a heck of a job in relief. Her performance getting out of that inning and not allowing any more runs was amazing. And she did it against the middle of their order. We’d have a tough time tying the game without her getting those outs.”
Snyder, who Rotundo says has been on a major hitting tear, got the game-tying rally going with a hard double over third base with one-out in the bottom of the fifth. Spalter then singled hard to center field, almost too hard, but Snyder was able to beat the throw home to tie the game.
“Sage’s has been hitting unbelievably for the last five weeks,” said Rotundo. “It started with a tournament in New York and she hasn’t stopped.” Snyder, slotted in the leadoff spot for the 16U Aces, was hit by a pitch and scored a run in the first inning and rocked a grounds rule double to right-center field for an RBI with two outs in the second inning. Snyder’s RBI gave the 16u Aces a 3-0 lead. Had the ball hit the outfield wall and not hopped over it, Edson would have scored easily from first base with a second run and Snyder appeared to have an easy triple. The rally was set up by Jenna Galdi, who led off the inning with a single, and Edson, who reached on an infield error.
Wardzinski brought home a run in the first inning with a fielder’s choice grounder and Kylie McKevitt delivered an RBI single to center to give the Aces an early 2-0 lead.
DeStefano pitched well, carrying a one-hit shutout into the fourth, but would allow an unearned run off a two-out rally by Syracuse Sports Zone. Maddie Ancone got it started by lacing a triple into the right-center field gap and scored on an infield error to trim the deficit to 3-1. DeStefano then got herself out of further trouble by knocking down a hard shot back to the circle by Nic Kasch. The righthander recovered in time to throw out Kasch at first.
At press time, Syracuse Sports Zone defeated 16U Kraze, 9-1, to set itself up for a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
NOTES: Chloe Smarz was robbed of a single and perhaps two RBI when Syracuse center fielder Ancone made a nice sliding catch of her sinking liner for the third out of the first inning. … Bishop initiated a nifty 5-4-3 double play to extinguish what had been a two-on, none-out Aces rally in the third. … Galdi had a single and a double and scored a run for the Aces. … DeStefano went 1-for-2 with a single. … Tessa Brunetti, the Aces center fielder, made a nice running catch on a shot by Chafee in the first inning. … Bishop hit a hard shot back to the circle leading off the fourth that DeStefano deflected toward the middle of the diamond. Spalter raced over, fielded the ball and fired to first for the out. … Sumida went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and scored a run for Syracuse.