Dyson Neill barrels up a double with two outs in the seventh inning for 3Up3Down Baseball.
The Diamond Jacks 15U Gold rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth and lefty reliever Nolan Fuller staved off a 3Up3Down rally in the seventh to secure a 3-2 victory in a Super 15 Invitational pool play game at Diamond Nation on Wednesday.
Fuller got the first two outs of the top of the seventh but Dyson Neill – who had pitched so well for 3Up3Down – laced a double down the left field line to turn the heat up on the Diamond Jacks.
Fuller then issued back-to-back walks to the top two hitters in the 3UP3Down order to load the bases for No. 3 hitter Ricky Scott. The 3UP3Down center fielder had already doubled in the first inning and tripled off Fuller in the sixth.
Fuller knew he could only be so careful or he’d walk in the tying run.
“He’s 15 and he’s got a goatee,” said Fuller about lefty-hitting Scott’s intimidating presence at the plate. “I’m not a strikeout guy. I’m a lefty with control and I’m looking for them to put it in play with soft contact.”
Fuller ratcheted up the pressure on himself when he fell behind 3-1 in the count. But he got it to full before getting Scott to hit a high pop up to the left side that shortstop Soren Gregor calmly put away for the game’s final out.
“I threw all fastballs in that last at bat,” said Fuller. “On 3-2 I just took a deep breath and beared down.”
Neill had shut out the Diamond Jacks (3-0, 18-7) on three hits over the first five innings before the Gold 15U squad put together a rally on the back of Fuller’s double and some well-executed small ball.
Gregor, the Diamond Jacks leadoff batter, started things innocently with a walk. Fuller then jumped on the first pitch he saw and drove into the left-center field gap for a double that chased Gregor to third. Chase Koplitz then hit a bouncer to shortstop that was mishandled as Gregor scored the Diamond Jacks’ first run. Fuller reached third on the error.
Neill then got Matt Kurek to fly out to right field but shallow enough that Fuller had to stay at third. Koplitz took second when the throw came all the way to the plate.
With the tying run 90 feet away, Diamond Jack coach Chris Brown did not wait for something good to happen. He instructed Liam Coyle to make it happen. Coyle dropped down a bunt on the first pitch and Fuller raced home with the tying run on the safety squeeze.
“Liam can handle the bat,” said Brown. “He’s a tough at bat and you can count on him to make contact.”
Koplitz took third on the bunt, which would prove very important.
Michael Brunetti stepped in and hit a fly ball plenty deep enough to center field that allowed Koplitz to tag and score easily with the go-ahead run from third.
“Michael had made great strides,” said Brown. “He had a slow start but he’s turned it around. He’s having good at bats.” Brunetti flew out deep to left-center field in the first inning and drew a walk in the fourth.
Fuller entered in the fourth in relief of starter Coyle, who pitched three scoreless innings on four hits. Coyle walked one and struck out none. He also survived a third inning in which he surrendered three hits, but the damage was minimized by a double play he started on a comebacker from Gavin Miller. Fuller worked the final four innings, permitting two runs on three hits, striking out three and walking three.
Neill was impressive, particularly in keeping the Diamond Jacks off balance and guessing with his pesky curveball. He allowed three runs on four hits, struck out three, walked three and hit a batter.
Both of 3Up3Down’s runs came via leadoff triples off Fuller. Landon Richard laced a shot down the right field line leading off the fifth and would score on Matt Knight’s one-out bouncer to shortstop. Scott tripled into the right-center gap leading off the sixth and scored on Bobby Gray’s fly ball to right field. Gray’s fly ball was misplayed into three bases but he was credited with an RBI on what was at the very least a sure sac fly.
Critically, Fuller got out of the one-out jam, stranding Gray at third. He induced a bouncer to third base and C.J. Banos fired home to nail Gray trying to score. Banos then retired Richard on a bouncer to third to end the inning.
“We had a feeling runs would be tough to come by today after scoring nine runs and six runs in our previous two games,” said Brown. “You have to be able to come from behind and you need to win those one-run games.”
Check and check.
NOTES: Fuller went 2-for-3 and scored a run. Gregor reached base in all three at bats, once on an error and he drew two walks. Kurek was 1-for-3 with a single and William Macken was 1-for-2 with a single. … Richard was 2-for-3 and scored a run for 3Up3Down.
… The Diamond Jacks 15U Gold finishes pool play against 15U Northeasters Runbird National at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. 3Up3Down (0-3, 5-22) plays its fourth pool play game at the same time against Bucks County Generals 2025s.