By Rich Bevensee
There was bedlam at first base and heartbreak on the pitcher’s mound.
That’s how a walk-off victory looks no matter how valiantly either team plays.
And perhaps those emotions are magnified – as in the case of the Easter Extravaganza 14U championship game on Saturday at Diamond Nation in Flemington – when both championship game entrants train at the same facility.
Logan Jarer of top-seeded Grit 14U Black and Vin Dorey of second-seeded Northeast Supreme 14U National staged a masterful pitchers’ duel, but it was Grit’s Kevin Comblo and Ty Ostrowski who stole the spotlight.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Comblo tripled home the tying run and Ostrowski followed by lacing an opposite-field single to drive in Comblo and propel Grit to a wild, 2-1, walk-off victory.
For now, Grit players own the bragging rights around the Northeast Supreme facility in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., where both teams train.
“This is sweet, especially with that team coming out of the same house as us,” said Ostrowski, named tournament MVP. “It’s nice to come out here and play against people you know. It’s a friendly relationship, but when you cross those lines it’s a different game. It was a rivalry game, and we were able to calm down in the last inning and get the job done.”
“That team (Northeast Supreme) is our sister team, so this is a sweet one,” said Grit coach Kevin Comblo, father of the younger Comblo. “It was an all-over great game on both ends. Both teams played their butts off.”
Comblo suggested his players may have been preoccupied with the rivalry to be properly focused. Grit batters were helpless against Dorey, who pitched to contact and carried a three-hit shutout heading into the seventh.
“Our boys were feeling the pressure, playing against their buddies from the same facility, and they finally loosened up a little bit,” coach Comblo said. “When the going got tough, they beared down and that was it.”
Grit entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 1-0. Dorey surrendered an opposite field single to Grit leadoff man Matt Denoyelles to open the inning. It was the second straight flare to right for the lefty-hitting Denoyelles.
Comblo had arguably the most important at bat of the championship, as he and Dorey battled to a full count before Comblo fouled off a pair of fastballs. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, Comblo blasted a shot to the fence in right-center which chased Denoyelles home while Comblo chugged into third.
“I was just trying to work the count with a runner on second, just trying to put the ball on the right side and get him to third for our 3, 4 and 5 hitters,” Comblo said. “I just calmed myself down, took deep breaths, tried to shorten up and cut that leg kick, use my hands and go right side with it.”
“He knows when there are two strikes on him to keep it simple,” coach Comblo said of his son. “He’s not trying to jack one or being a hero. Kind of what he’s been taught since T-ball.”
Following Comblo’s triple, Northeast coach A.J. Flores – who just two weeks ago managed two Flores Baseball Braves teams (10U and 13U) to Battle at the Turf championships at ‘The Nation’ – opted to intentionally walk Sean Concannon and Anthony Caruso to load the bases.
With the infield drawn in, the lefty-hitting Ostrowski sliced an 0-1 looper into left field which curled toward the foul line and dropped safely for the game-winning base hit.
First Comblo was mobbed at home, then Ostrowski at first base.
“In the dugout I was imagining the situation if I got to bat,” Ostrowski said. “I stepped to the plate, took some deep breaths so I could calm down and it was one of those times when you have to surface yourself, to calm down and see the ball.
“It was a fastball, middle away. I saw it dropping and I thought, great, that’s exactly what I needed to do.”
None of the seventh inning drama would have been possible if not for the combined excellence of Jarer and Dorey.
“He (Dorey) was throwing pretty well so I knew I had to go out with my best,” Jarer said. “I enjoyed the challenge. I don’t really feel any pressure out there. I enjoy dealing with pressure.”
The only run Jarer yielded came in the top of the third when Northeast’s Brandon Emig stroked a one-out single through the middle, stole second, and scored on a two-out base hit by Jayden Acevedo.
Aside from that third-inning blip, Jarer was dominant, combining three pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) to chalk up five near perfect innings. He struck out 12 while giving up three hits and no walks.
Dorey’s final line was two runs allowed on six hits and three walks (two intentional) with five strikeouts in seven innings.
Jarer didn’t seem too impressed with his strikeout total. His single-game career high is 18, when he struck out every single batter in a six-inning game in Cooperstown last summer.
It’s clear Jarer has the respect and admiration of his coach and peers.
“Logan’s a dog,” coach Comblo said. “Every time we ask him to pitch he pitches a gem, a complete game shutout almost every time, so we have to have his back there. He pitched his butt off tonight.”
“Logan was phenomenal,” the younger Comblo said. “He had that one inning when they scored a run on him, and he came back the next four innings and worked his butt off and got some big outs.”
Ostrowski may have said it best.
“He’s ecstatic to watch,” Ostrowski said. “Every time he steps on the mound he’s impressive. Kid’s an absolute stud in my opinion.”