Iron Nine’s Liam Garrett had a three-run triple in the third inning to give his team a 5-3 lead.
By Rich Bevensee
If being a student of the game means learning from your mistakes, that places Liam Garrett at the head of the class.
In his first at bat, Iron Nine Baseball’s Garrett, a rising sophomore at Seton Hall Prep, struck out swinging after getting fooled by an especially sharp curveball from Gabe Ahlemeyer of the 9ers Baseball Club. Armed with that data going into his second at bat, there was no way Garrett was going to wait around for another deuce from Ahlemeyer.
With his team rallying in the bottom of the third inning, Garrett roped the first pitch he saw from Ahlemeyer into the left-center gap for a go-ahead, three-run triple. It was that blast which fueled a six-run inning and propelled Iron Nine to an 11-3 victory on the final day of the 15U Boys Of Summer Tournament on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“I saw the pitcher had a good curveball and, late in counts, he was really locating with it,” Garrett said. “I wanted to jump on him really early and I got lucky. I got a first-pitch fastball and put it in the gap.”
Thanks in part to Garrett’s bat, Iron Nine finished the weekend 2-0-1 and closed the summer 4-1-1 in its last two trips to Diamond Nation.
On Saturday, Iron Nine defeated the Staten Island Orioles 21-2 and tied Hustle Baseball Academy 5-5. Last week in the Beat The Heat Tournament, Iron Nine knocked off Wladyka Baseball National, 10-5, and Complete Game Colonials Red, 11-3, and bowed, 8-7, to Rawlings Prospects (Maryland) 2025.
The last two weeks have been a terrific reversal of fortune for coach Max Herrmann’s crew, a Cranford and Westfield mix of players which went 2-7 in its first two Diamond Nation appearances this summer and was outscored 14-0 in three games in the Home Run Classic June 3-5.
“It’s the last game of the season for our guys and their guys and this is the best venue to do it,” said Iron Nine coach Max Herrman, an outstanding lefty pitcher at Montclair Kimberley and Rutgers who reached the AAA level in the Los Angeles Angels organization. “I’m really proud of how the boys rallied up here. We went 4-1-1 in our last two tournaments after going 2-5 in the beginning of the year. It’s been a nice progression and it’s great to round out the season like that.”
Tyler Veltre carried a big bat for the Iron Nine, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Logan Martel blasted an opposite-field, two-run double down the right field line to fuel a five-run sixth. John Greenwood’s sixth-inning RBI single into left field ended the game via the mercy rule.
Nick Rotundo, a rising sophomore at West Morris, got the win after pitching four innings and allowing three runs on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts. Rotundo allowed three runs in the first two innings but pitched two scoreless innings before handing off to Jack Donnelly, Garrett’s classmate and rising freshman teammate at Seton Hall Prep. Donnelly pitched a scoreless inning in relief after allowing a hit, a walk and striking out two.
“It was just about attacking with fastballs and hitting my locations,” said Rotundo, who employed a curveball and changeup to supplement a heavy dose of fastballs. “I got ahead of counts and left some sliders over the plate, so I was focused on attacking the plate and relying on my fielders. I found my groove toward the end.”
“He really settled in nicely,” Herrmann said of Rotundo. “He was able to find the feel for his breaking ball and pitch off of that, and then he was able to settle down.”
The bottom of the third was the key inning for Iron Nine, which sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six runs on five hits, one walk and two errors in taking a 6-3 lead.
Connor Francis reached on an infield single, and leadoff man Aaron Ives hit a single to left which was misplayed into a two-base error allowing Francis to score and get Iron Nine on the board.
Grant Como added an RBI single to bring Iron Nine within one, and, after Veltre singled and Jake Alfano walked, Garrett cleared the bases with a gapper to left center. He later scored on an infield throwing error on a Colin Willard grounder.
“Liam’s an extremely confident kid and he’s got short-term memory,” Herrmann said. “He’s a leader on the field so he’s able to adjust from that strikeout and come back and ambush a fastball. That brought us right back into it.”
Iron Nine’s five-run sixth closed out the contest. Como reached on an infield error and Veltre drove him in with a single. Alfano walked and Garrett reached on an error, and Martel drove in Veltre and Alfano with a long double into the right field corner. After a Willard single, Greenwood closed out the game by plating Martel with a base hit.
For the 9ers, a Wall Twp.-based outfit, Tyler Levine had an RBI single, Braden Bradley forced in a run with a hit by pitch, and Anthony Milone had an RBI groundout.
Ahlemeyer pitched four innings and allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Mateo Rivera pitched an inning of relief and allowed five runs on four hits and one walk.
With the loss to Iron Nine, the 9ers closed the weekend 1-2. They lost to Hustle Baseball Academy 10-1 and beat the Staten Island Orioles 8-4.
NOTES: Iron Nine 15U coach Max Herrmann is actually the second of a pair of outstanding pitching brothers. Both Max and his older brother, Frank, were undrafted free agents who made deep runs in professional ball. Max, as mentioned, made it to Triple-A with the Angels.
Frank signed with Cleveland out of Harvard and made his Major League debut in 2010. He would see parts of four seasons in the big leagues, his last with the Phillies in 2016. The Herrmann’s grew up in Rutherford.
Max’s and Frank’s high school coach, Ralph Pacifico, coincidentally, is one win shy of career victory No. 500 entering the 2023 season and the Herrmanns get credit for a chunk of that.