By Sean Reilly
Jacob Greer’s last at-bat of the year was also his finest.
The PA Shockers 16U standout came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday night in a very tough spot at Diamond Nation.
His team was trailing Grit/NES by a run, and there were two out in the frame.
He was also facing Sean Concannon, a pitcher who had performed brilliantly. In fact, the only reason Greer was hitting was because a two-out foul pop on the left side of the infield was dropped, and that batter, Noah Wilson, ultimately reached on a hit by pitch.
Greer, who hadn’t hit a home run all year, sent a pitch over the fence in left field for a go-ahead homer and a very sudden momentum shift.
The Pennsylvania team added two more runs in the inning, and reliever Ryder Olson pitched a scoreless seventh to give the appropriately named Shockers a 5-2 win for the championship of the Fall Harvest 16U tournament in Flemington.
It was also the last game of 2023 for the Shockers, who concluded the weekend with a 4-0 record and a 23-11 run differential.
“What a great way to end it,” said Greer. “That was my first home run. I had been waiting for it and it finally came.”
Concannon, whose pitch count was rising, took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, with three hits allowed, 11 strikeouts and one walk. He also retired the first two Shockers’ batters in the sixth, and was on the verge of getting the third out before the error on the foul pop which sustained the at-bat to Wilson.
Greer knew it was almost certainly his last plate appearance of the year. The game situation added to the moment.
“I was thinking of just putting the ball in play,” Greer said. “I was thinking of staying composed and doing something for the team. He had been pitching great all game, but his velocity was slowing down, and I just happened to hit one out.”
After Greer’s home run put the Shockers ahead, Patrick Wendell followed with a walk and Cameron Pengelly singled to first base. Logan Niewoehner then hit a double to right field that scored both runners for a three-run lead.
Grit/NES, with players primarily from Rockland and Westchester counties in New York, still had a chance to come back in the seventh.
Concannon led off with a single to center, his third hit of the game. Ryan McCabe reached on a fielder’s choice, with the runner forced out at second.
The next batter struck out, before Daniel Higgins walked on a full count. With the tying run at the plate, a ground out to shortstop ended the game.
Olson relieved impressive starter Chase Simmons with two out in the fourth inning, after Grit/NES had just scored the first run of the game.
Olson wound up allowing no runs on two hits, with two strikeouts and two walks, to earn the win.
“I just did what I had to do, which was to throw strikes, pound the mitt, get guys out and give my team a chance to come back,” Olson said.
Scoring chances on either side were scarce until Grit/NES struck with two outs in the top of the fourth.
Concannon started the rally with a single to center, and when McCabe hit a double to left field, Concannon made it all the way around the bases, scoring the first run on an excellent tag-avoiding slide. After the pitching change, McCabe moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored the second run on an error.
Jacob Greer of the PA Shockers was named the 16U Fall Harvest MVP.
The Shockers got a run back in the bottom of the frame. Wilson led off with a single up the middle. He stole second before Greer walked. A wild pitch advanced the runners, and Wendell hit a ground out to second to score Wilson and send Greer to third. Concannon buckled down and struck out the next two batters to maintain his team’s 2-1 lead.
When the game ended, Shockers coach Steve Wagner had the task of selecting a tournament MVP. It didn’t take much deliberation to choose Greer.
“When you hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, it makes it a little easier to pick an MVP,” he said. “All of our pitchers threw well, but he was also one of them. He threw well to get us into the final. It was the first-time ever that picking an MVP was easy.”
It was also a fitting end to the year for the Shockers.
“This game was a fun one,” Wagner said. “This group hasn’t quit all year. It’s a joy coaching this team, with great parents and a great organization. I had a lot of fun this year, and this was a great way to end it.”
Aside from Greer’s home run, the other key component for the Shockers was the relief job by Olson.
“He threw 20 pitches earlier in the day,” Wagner said. “I had a conversation with him, and he said he could give me 50 to 60, and I think he was at 54. He had one or maybe two guys left and he was done, so it was as tight as it gets on pitches. He did a great job.”
“I was just glad I could throw and close it,” Olson said. “They were a good team and it was a good game.”