By Sean Reilly
Preston Pahang came to the plate in the top of the seventh inning on Sunday night at Diamond Nation with a chance to do something special for his FS Prime 13U team.
There were two out and runners on first and second base in the championship of the 13U Spring Classic Powered By Victus. His team was leading the NJ Rising Rebels by a run, but a hit could give his team much-needed insurance heading into the bottom of the last inning of what had been a well-played game by both sides.
Additionally, FS Prime’s pitching depth was running low after a battle-tested weekend in Flemington. Pahang fell behind 0-2 before evening the count.
“There were two runners on base and I just wanted to get a piece of the ball,” he said.
He did that and more. Pahang capped off a fine tournament by slicing a liner over the head of the first baseman and down the right field line for a huge two-run opposite-field triple. He then scored on a wild pitch.
The Rising Rebels started the bottom of the seventh by putting the first two runners on via a walk and catcher’s interference call. But reliever Michael Angelo retired the next three batters, the final two by strikeout, and FS Prime emerged with an 8-4 victory for a very special championship for the organization from Atlantic County.
FS Prime teams have been visiting Diamond Nation for several years in various age groups. They’ve made a few final-round appearances in that time, but never went home with a championship until now. The win capped a 5-0 weekend with a 51-21 run differential.
All four playoff teams in the 16-team field went 3-0 in their respective four-team pools. FS Prime did so by beating the Diamond Jacks Super 13U, 10-4, in its first game on Sunday to clinch first-place in its pool and avoid elimination.
FS Prime was seeded fourth in the playoffs based on tie-breaking criteria, and drew the top-seeded Diamond Jacks Gold 13U in the semifinals. FS Prime won that game, 8-5.
The championship matchup was scoreless after two innings. The Rising Rebels had runners on second and third with one out in the third, but FS Prime starter Luke Sedgwick got a strikeout and ground ball out to first base to squelch the threat.
FS Prime broke through by scoring five times in the third. Christian Trabosh led off with a single over the second baseman and into right field. Roman Giaconia was up next, and singled to left center. Kyle Vanaman walked to load the bases.
The next batter struck out, and Angelo hit a grounder to second, with Vanaman forced out at second but Trabosh scored the first run as Angelo beat out the double-play bid.
Ben Caffarelli was up next, and a wild pitch during his at-bat scored Giaconia. Caffarelli was also safe on an error which scored Angelo with the third run. Pahang was the next batter. Caffarelli stole second and third during his at-bat, and on a 3-2 offering, scored on a ball four wild pitch. Liam Schulingkamp added an RBI double to the left field corner for the 5-0 lead.
The Rising Rebels got two runs back in the third, on an RBI double by Jordani Gonzalez and a hit-and-run single from Mike Mejia.
The inning then ended on a fine catch by FS Prime second baseman Marco Esgro, who ranged into shallow right field to make a catch to retire the No. 2 batter in the Rising Rebels order. It was one of a handful of impressive plays made by Esgro during the game.
The Rising Rebels continued to chip away, with Pat McKeever hitting an RBI single with one out in the fourth and Julian Liu delivering a two-out, run-scoring hit in the sixth.
That’s why the extra runs for FS Prime in the seventh were so important.
Landis Pilla singled to left field with one out, and after a fly out to deep left field, Caffarelli walked. That sent up Pahang, was 1-for-2 with a walk leading into the at-bat. He came through with the two-run triple after working the count to even.
“He threw me an outside fastball,” he said. “This was a lot of fun. We had a lot of tough games, and didn’t really have much pitching left. It’s big to get the organization its first Diamond Nation win.”
Sedgwick was the starting pitcher who was tasked with giving FS Prime as much length as possible. He did a great job, going 4 1/3 innings and exiting with a 5-3 lead. It was his longest outing of the spring. Angelo pitched the final 2 2/3 innings.
“I was just trying my hardest to throw strikes,” said Sedgwick, who threw mostly fastballs. “This was the longest I’ve gone all spring, and it was our biggest game.”