Gryskiewicz’s strong five innings sends Ascent to MDB title

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 31, 2023

By Rich Bevensee

Ascent Athlete 2027 coach Scott Lawler looked out from the dugout at Matt Gryskiewicz, who was pitching a masterful game through four innings but was reaching his prescribed 70-pitch count.

When Gryskiewicz took his seat in the dugout after retiring the side in order, Lawler informed him a reliever would be taking over, but Gryskiewicz was adamant about throwing another inning.

Gryskiewicz was given the green light and issued a pair of two-out walks. After each one, Lawler signaled for a reliever. Gryskiewicz shook his head forcefully to be left alone. Lawler relented, and Gryskiewicz got the final out on a strikeout looking.

There’s a level of trust between the two that has been built over the last few years of travel ball. That trust was never more evident than when Lawler permitted Gryskiewicz to milk every ounce of effort from his right arm in the championship game of the 14U Memorial Day Blast on Sunday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“With the trust he has in me, I knew in my heart that I had that all the way,” Gryskiewicz said. “And for him to have that level of trust in me, that means everything to me.”

Gryskiewicz, exhausted after cresting 100 pitches, was named tournament MVP after throwing a three-hitter through five innings and leading Ascent to an 8-4 victory over the New York Gothams and the program’s first Diamond Nation title.

Gryskiewicz even helped his cause with a base hit and a run scored. Chase Nolan did his part in preserving Gryskiewicz’s work, allowing just one run over the final two innings.

Thomas Lawler, the coach’s son, singled, doubled and drove in two runs for Ascent. Tommy Sergio singled twice and had two RBI, and Brendon Biaocco singled twice and drove in a run.

“This weekend we got to play a lot of baseball because of Diamond Nation,” Lawler said. “It gave us more opportunities for the kids against really good competition.”

Ascent, from Garnet Valley of Chester County, Pennsylvania, was playing in just its second tournament of the spring, but made quick work of pool play en route to the final. It earned a mercy-rule victory over host Diamond Jacks Super 14U (10-0), nipped the GoWags Brawlers (2-1) and rolled past  Powerballers 14U (7-1) and Trumbull Travel Baseball (8-2).

“This championship shows we’re going to be one of the best teams in the country,” Gryskiewicz said. “We went 5-0 and gave up eight runs total against this type of competition? I have complete faith in this program, complete faith we’ll be in the Top 20 in the nation.”

The Gothams had outscored five opponents 44-22 to earn a berth in the final, but yielding seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning was their undoing. Ascent sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on six hits and two errors.

With the Gothams leading 3-1, Gryskiewicz began the inning with a single which turned into a two-base error and allowed him to coast into third. It was that kind of inning for the Gothams.

Sergio singled home Gryskiewicz. Nicky Vanni singled to left and Biaocco belted an RBI single to right to tie the game. Blaise DeSeanto was the next batter and he gave Ascent the lead for good by driving in a run on a grounder in which he was safe at first on a fielding error.

Jonathan Dzedzy added an RBI infield single, Lawler stroked a two-run single to right, and Dzedzy later scored on a balk for an 8-3 lead.

The Gothams tacked on a late run in the seventh, but Nolan slammed the door with a strikeout to end the game, sealing Ascent’s first title at the Flemington complex, and perhaps signaling a slew of titles to come for this newly-formed group under the direction of Lawler and Tom Sergio.

“Tom had a team that went to the Little League World Series two years ago, and my son was playing travel ball with another organization, but Serge and I always knew we’d eventually get our kids together,” Lawler said. “We merged groups and brought them to Ascent because of our building and the training that we have, and got to work this winter.

“These guys all really like each other,” Lawler said. “They worked really hard in the winter together, so they’re kind of feeling each other out. As coaches we’re trying to find the right positions for the guys.”

Three Ascent players – Sergio, DeSanto and Jalen Bowman – were members of the Upper Providence Little League team of Oaks, Pa., one of two teams (along with Toms River East Little League of Toms River, N.J.) which represented the Mid-Atlantic Region at the 2021 LLWS, eventually won by Taylor, Michigan.

Gryskiewicz’s final stat line was three runs yielded (two earned) on three hits and three walks and a hit batter with seven strikeouts in four innings. Tasked with his first championship game start, he dug himself a hole when the Gothams tagged him for three runs in the top of the second to take a 3-1 lead.

Gryskiewicz said he was beginning to feel gassed going into the fourth inning. But he gained some confidence after inducing two groundouts and a pop fly.

“Coach wanted me to throw the whole game but unfortunately I got my pitch count too high,” Gryskiewicz said. “It’s tough up there when you’re trying to get stuff going and it’s not working. When you’re throwing 20 pitches an inning it’s not the greatest, but it got the job done.”

“I’ve known Matt for a while, and he is the ultimate competitor,” Lawler said. “I wanted to pull him an inning before. You can never take Matt out, but my job is to look after his arm health.”

So Gryskiewicz finished the fourth inning without any damage, and his teammates threw a seven-spot on the board in the bottom of the frame to take the lead. That offensive explosion steeled Gryskiewicz’s determination to keep pitching.

Matt Gryskiewicz of Ascent Athlete 2027 was named 14U Memorial Day Blast Tournament MVP.

Gryskiewicz retired the first two batters of the fifth inning, then gave up back-to-back walks. Those runners advanced to second and third on a double steal before Gryskiewicz escaped with a strikeout.

“We were going to pull him the inning before and he said I’ve got one more,” Lawler said. “He was around 70 (pitches) so I was like, alright, you have one more, make it quick. Guy gets on and we want to take him out, and he’s going no, no, no, no, no.”

“Coach wanted me to pull me and I was mad I walked that kid so I was feeding off that,” Gryskiewicz said. “I was running off adrenaline.”

Lawler said he’d seen that level of determination in Gryskiewicz before, so he trusted his instincts and allowed his young pitcher to finish the inning.

“I wanted to take him out and he’s shaking his head no, but I’ve seen Matt pitch in games like this before and he’s a horse,” Lawler said. “He is the ultimate competitor whether he’s on the mound or in the batter’s box. He’s just that type of kid. He has a very bright future.”

The Gothams, 4-1-1 in the tournament, were led by clean-up hitter Jordan DeJesus, the only batter to get two hits off Ascent pitching. Derek Soroa doubled and drove in a run.

Trailing 1-0 going into the third, the Gothams took a 3-1 lead when Maverick Satnick scored on a throwing error after taking third on a passed ball, Soroa had an RBI groundout, and DeJesus followed with an RBI single to center.

Leans Scayano allowed one run on three hits and one walk with three strikeouts in two innings to start the game for the Gothams. Will Skrobe was tagged for seven runs (six earned) on six hits and one walk with two strikeouts in three innings. P.J. Abramson struck out two in a scoreless seventh.

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