By Sean Reilly
There was plenty at stake when Justin Fuerbacher came to bat for the Monmouth Liberty Baseball Club 16U in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game against Trenton Thunder Baseball Academy 16U.
For starters, it was the championship game of Diamond Nation 16U Halloween Mash. Secondly, the score was tied and the bases were loaded. And not only that, it was in all likelihood his final at-bat of the year.
That’s a lot to contemplate upon stepping into the batter’s box, but the first baseman and No. 5 man in the order was ready.
He responded with the biggest hit of what had been a very tight game, a three-run triple to the gap in right-center field. He would also score on a single by Gavin Toth, and Monmouth Liberty was on its way to an 8-3 victory to close out its season in style in Flemington.
“Bases loaded, tie game, I was just looking for my pitch,” said Fuerbacher, a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy. “He gave it to me right where I wanted it. I knew I could drive it, and that’s exactly what I did. It was a fastball, middle low, right there for me. It feels great to end the year like that.”
Fuerbacher wasn’t the only Liberty player to make the most of his last performance of 2022.
Starting pitcher Jack Dufficy, a right hander who also attends CBA, worked the first six innings. He allowed four hits (two in the first inning), and no earned runs, with four strikeouts and three walks. He’s also the cleanup batter, and walked twice and scored two runs. He was named tournament MVP.
“We played well all tournament,” Dufficy said. “It was fun to get a win. This game was back and forth. We got off to a slow start, but we hit and got it together. We made plays when we needed it.”
The Thunder took an early 2-0 lead. Joe Andreas led off the game by reaching on an error. After a fly out, Teak Toto hit a single, and advanced all the way to third on a two-base outfield error which scored Andreas. Josh Pagano then singled to left field to score Toto. But Monmouth Liberty then turned a 6-4-3 double play to avoid any additional damage.
Monmouth Liberty tied the score in fourth, getting an RBI single from Danny Tsimbinos (2-for-2) and an RBI groundout from Nico Amecangelo. The Thunder made two impressive defensive plays to avoid a bigger inning: second baseman Jordan Klim threw out a runner at home after fielding a grounder for the first out with runners on second and third, and third baseman Andreas charged a slow ground ball and zipped a throw to first to get the third out with a runner on third.
The Thunder took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. Pagano drew a two-out walk. He went to second on a wild pitch. He then made a dash for third on a ball, and scored on a throwing error.
Everything in the game changed, however, in the bottom of the sixth, when Monmouth Liberty erupted for six runs, all with one out.
Will Fahey, the first man in the batting order, reached on an error. Michael Frandsen and Tsimbinos both walked to load the bases. Dufficy then walked on four pitches to tie the score and set the stage for Fuerbacher, who delivered the game-breaking triple for a 6-3 lead.
The Thunder then changed pitchers, but Amecangelo was immediately hit by a pitch. Toth followed with his run-scoring single to left field. Amecangelo scored when Hayden Schechter grounded out to shortstop.
“Teammates picked each other up,” Dufficy said. “It’s great to end the year with a win.”