Housten’s grit, Bucks County defense shine in Super 17

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 20, 2024

Blake Bell dives across home plate to give the Generals a 2-0 lead in the third inning.

By Rich Bevensee

After a steamy week of baseball, the Bucks County Generals 2025s packed up their equipment and bid farewell to Diamond Nation on Sunday to prepare for what amounts to a month-long tournament road trip with stops in Marietta and Emerson, Georgia, and Boston, Massachusetts. 

They left Flemington with not only a 2-2 record – concluding their New Jersey stay with a solid 7-2 victory over MVP New England 2025 Silver in Week 1 of the Super 17 Invitational – but the confidence in knowing that their defense can carry the day over the next few weeks at those tournament hubs. 

Generals righty Jared Housten, a rising senior at Quakertown High (Pa.) surrendered only two runs over five innings despite an uneven performance, but he was also buoyed by a defense which made a dozen sparkling plays which kept MVP off the bases and off the scoreboard. 

“That was the best defense we played all week,” Generals coach J.R. Barder said. “They are extremely talented.”

For starters, shortstop Chase Fulford (Central Bucks East) and third baseman Colin Morgan (Father Judge, Philadelphia) took turns charging slow rollers and making off-balance throws to first base. In fact, they did it twice each, making the difficult play look routine.

“They have great arms and great technique,” Barder said. “Sometimes it’s not the result but how you go about that play. We train that three times a week and do a lot of reps, not just slow rollers but one step, two step, barehand, two hands, so when it happens it looks like they’ve done it before.”

Catcher Chase Jones, a rising North Penn senior committed to West Chester, threw out two runners at second base with pinpoint throws to the right side of the bag. 

After an MVP base hit with runners in scoring position in the fifth inning, a brilliant relay from center fielder Owen Pinkerton (Central Bucks South) to first baseman Mason Coyne (North Penn) to Jones cut down a runner at the plate. 

Generals first baseman Mason Cruz (Central Bucks East) got into the act in the sixth, chasing a foul ball and leaning over the fence to make the catch. 

Two batters later, Fulford combined with second baseman Michael Koldhoff (Central Bucks West) and Cruz for a smooth 6-4-3 double play. 

“We played good defense all week but that was definitely our best,” Fulford said. “When our hitting gets going we’re really good. And we got a few more pitchers this year so we’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

Housten’s final stat line – two runs allowed on three hits and eight walks with four strikeouts – won’t raise any eyebrows, but how he navigated through trouble and minimized damage will impress scouts.

“The one thing I liked is his pacing between each pitch without rushing,” Barder said. “Sometimes when kids get into trouble, they say, ‘Give me the ball, let me step on the mound and let me fix the last pitch I just messed up on.’ I don’t see that out of him. I see intent to keep the pace of the game up so that his defense can help him out and be ready and not be bored to tears when their time comes.”

Housten got off to a rough start, walking four batters in the first inning, but he escaped without giving up a run. In the third he surrendered two runs on two hits and a walk. But he steadied himself to yield just two hits over the final four innings. 

“I liked how I didn’t give up after that first inning and those four walks and kept trying to compete every inning,” said Housten, who relied on his two-seam fastball when his four-seamer and slider were off target. 

“I try to treat every inning like it’s a new game, something new every inning,” Housten said. “It’s very hard to do, but it felt like I was working better every inning.”

Luciano Stridacchio pitched 1⅓ innings of scoreless relief, allowing just two walks and a hit batsman. And following up on his brilliant display at short, Fulford came on to get the final two outs, one by strikeout. 

“Chase is an old soul who is a gamer,” Barder said. “If you need him to catch, he’ll catch. And if you need him to kick field goals he’d try that too.”

Fulford, the Generals’ leadoff hitter, was the lone player in the game to reach safely four times. He doubled to left in the first inning, singled to right in the third, was hit by a pitch in the fifth and slugged a 340-foot, solo home run to left in the seventh.

Owen Pinkerton hits a two-run double in the fifth inning for the Bucks County Generals.

Fulford, a 5-10, 155-pound rising senior, hit .270 and was named all-conference as Central Bucks East’s starting shortstop while helping the team go 17-8 and reach the state 6A semifinals for the first time in program history.

Seems the pitching aspect is just another talent which comes in handy from time to time. 

“I like pitching but it’s about whatever we need to win,” said Fulford, who throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. “I like to tell (Barder) I can go in because I have confidence I can throw strikes. I think my slider is my best pitch, it moves a lot, moves out from a righty. I don’t even practice pitching, just some changeups when we’re warming up sometimes.”

For the Generals, Morgan went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs, and Blake Bell walked and scored twice.

After two scoreless innings against MVP, which hails from East Hartford, Connecticut, the Generals scored first in the top of the third in one of the most unconventional ways possible.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Mason Cruz thought he had earned a walk when the count was really 3-2. He began trotting to first and Zachary Neeld began his jog from first to second. MVP coach Nick Greenwood shouted for a tag on Neeld, and slowly everyone realized it was a live ball. While Neeld was tagged out at second, Morgan raced home with the first run. 

Cruz resumed his place in the batter’s box and lofted a sacrifice fly to score Bell and give the Generals a 2-0 lead. 

MVP tied the game in the bottom half of the inning, as Drew Sargolini poked an opposite-field base hit through the right side to plate Keaton Kroll, and Nathan Blackak’s sac fly scored Cooper Lamb.

The Generals reclaimed the lead in the fifth, 4-2, on Pinkerton’s two-run double to left. The score climbed to 6-2 in the sixth when Koldhoff had a bases-loaded, RBI groundout and Coyne scored on a wild pitch. 

For MVP, which left Diamond Nation winless in four games, Kroll went 2-for-2 with a walk.

Sean Moleti, Nathan Odegard and Rafael Medina each pitched two innings for MVP and yielded two runs, and Maxwell Markar surrendered a run in the seventh.

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