Mason Finnegan dives back to first after recording the Northeast Pride’s first hit of the game.
By Rich Bevensee
Pitchers throwing with velocity and location? Check.
Hitters putting the ball in play with occasional power? Check.
Defense looking smooth while making a pickoff and double play look ordinary? Check again.
The 12U New York Longhorns checked all the boxes while playing their first game of the season, and coach Erik Paulsen said he expected every bit of it.
Bryce Cutrone, Gavin Porter and Nicky Mauceri combined on a three-hitter, Logan Ho and J.P. Petty blasted home runs and the Longhorns ran roughshod over the Northeast Pride 11-1 to begin pool play at the Easter Extravaganza on Friday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
The Longhorns were to face the always-tough Flores Baseball Braves later on Friday and the New York Sluggers on Saturday to conclude pool play. The 12U championship game is slated for 12:15 p.m. Saturday.
“We always expect to win, but we definitely have some kinks to work out and we’re hoping to do it in this tournament, so we’ll see what happens,” Paulsen said.
The Longhorns pitching trio allowed three hits, but the first one wasn’t registered until the fourth inning. They combined for nine strikeouts against one walk.
Cutrone pitched two perfect innings to start the game – he struck out the side in the first. Porter surrendered an unearned run over three innings while allowing three hits and one walk and he struck out four. Mauceri pitched a perfect sixth inning with a strikeout.
“We have a pretty good team, a bunch of good arms, and honestly we expected to go out there and throw a bunch of strikes,” Cutrone said. “And you can be a lot more confident when you know you’ll get some runs behind you.”
“They all work hard,” Paulsen said. “And the catchers are really good, too, helping out with framing and stuff like that. As long as they throw, we always have a chance to win.”
The Longhorns offense was patient and relentless, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings and then at least one run in the next three frames. Eight Longhorns contributed an RBI.
Christian Calabro led the hit parade for the Longhorns by going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Ho, the Longhorns leadoff hitter, pulled a solo home run over the right field fence and finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored.
Cole Paulsen went 2-for-3 with an RBI double. Petty went 2-for-3 with a single and an opposite-field, three-run home run which was disguised as a nuclear missile as it sizzled over the right field fence.
“We’ve been together for three years and we’ve always been a good hitting team,” Calabro said. “You just have to get hits and get the runs in, that’s all that matters. We’ve been practicing since December and it’s been pretty good.”
The Longhorns began the game with a pair of runs in the first inning. Mikey Castellano had an RBI sacrifice fly and Paulsen stroked an RBI double.
In the second, Mikey McGlynn contributed a sac fly and Porter scored on an infield throwing error. In the third, Cutrone produced the team’s third run-scoring sac fly and Calabro added an RBI single.Grayson Aristy scored to make it 7-0 in the fourth on an infield error.
Meanwhile, Cutrone and Porter were buzzing through Northeast bats. The Pride didn’t register its first base hit until Mason Finnegan singled in the bottom of the fourth.
Finnegan was cut down at second as the Longhorns’ Porter picked him off and first baseman Calabro threw to shortstop Mauceri for the out.
Ho’s solo homer in the fifth made it 8-0 Longhorns.
Northeast put together a couple hits by Riley Hossage and Brady Scheurer in the bottom of the fifth, and Hossage moved to third when the Longhorns demonstrated a perfectly executed 4-6-3 double play, Paulsen to Mauceri to Calabro.
Hossage spoiled the Longhorns’ shutout bid – and a chance to end the game via the mercy rule – when he scored the Pride’s sole run on a two-out throwing error.
In the top of the sixth, the right-handed hitting Petty rocketed a line drive over the right field fence for a three-run shot.
Center fielder Micah Anderson was the fielding standout for the Pride by catching five fly balls, and he was responsible for his team’s defensive play of the game when he dove head first to catch a dying liner off the bat of Dean Geiger in the top of the third.
The Pride was to play the New York Sluggers Friday evening and the FB Braves on Saturday.