Jersey Boyz’ Zach Stagaard barrels the ball up in 16U Blue Chip Prospects pool play.
When Devan Sutaria struck out the last two Rochester Fury batters of the bottom of the fifth, Jersey Boyz Baseball’s five-run lead appeared safer than ever. Little did he and his teammates know how deep they would have to dig to survive this pool play game at Diamond Nation.
The Fury struck for four runs off Sutaria in the sixth, then loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh before the rising junior at Watchung Hills High found another gear to secure a wildly entertaining 5-4 victory in a 16U Blue Chip Prospects game.
Sutaria struck out the first two Rochester batters of the seventh on fastballs that maintained the same hop that made solid contact difficult for the Fury. But this scrappy bunch from Upstate New York did not go easily as Ben Malady and Matt Tallini, the Nos. 9 and 10 batters in the order, delivered back-to-back two-out singles.
That put runners on the corners and Malady just 90 feet from tying it up. Sutaria was then faced with the one hitter who had consistently barreled up his pitches, leadoff batter Danny Melendez.
“He had two hits off me and I didn’t want to try him,” said Sutaria, who would pitch Melendez carefully before walking him on five pitches. “I knew I had gotten the No. 2 batter out twice.” But Sam Lessard, who had already saved the Fury’s hide with a terrific relief effort, had hit the ball well enough to cause concern. He also drew a walk in the middle of the sixth inning rally.
Sutari, however, put together a terrific three-pitch sequence — changeup, curveball and fastball — and got Lessard looking at a pitch on the outside corner for the third out. “We were attacking with fastballs earlier in the game and going to the curveball for the out pitch. But we pitched backward this time.” In doing so, he may have thrown the best three pitches he threw to any batter in the game.
Sutaria received a huge assist from his infield in the sixth inning after Rochester had scored four runs and had a runner at first base still with no outs. Second baseman Uli Ferraz corralled Connor Springer’s hard bouncer in the middle of the diamond, hurriedly stepped on second and fired to first for a double play. Sutaria got the next batter on a flyball to left field and Jersey Boyz held gingerly to a 5-4 lead.
Tallini had gotten things going in the sixth for the Fury with a leadoff walk and quickly stole second with Melendez at that plate. Melendez then served a hard grounder into the hole that third baseman Ryan Nicholas could only dive for and knock down. Suddenly Rochester had life.
Sutaria, who had issued just one walk through the first five innings while permitted just two hits, issued his second walk of the inning, to Lessard, loading the bases with no outs. The Fury, in an eye-blick, were right in this thing. Quicker than that, No. 3 hitter Cooper Hassall unloaded a blast into the left-center field gap for a bases-clearing triple that drew the Fury to within 5-3.
“I threw a changeup and left it up,” said Sutaria, “and he hit a shot in the gap.”
Cleanup hitter Will Cole stepped in and delivered Hassall on a looping single to shallow center field, cutting the deficit to 5-4. Rochester would turn the screws again on Sutaria and the Jersey Boyz in the seventh but Sutaria would find his way out of it in the most precarious of situations.
Interestingly, while Sutaria’s command may have faltered a bit over the final two innings, his velocity never wavered and, most importantly, he still had something in the tank to reach for when it counted most.
“Devin has always been the type of pitcher not to give up a lot of solid contact,” said Jersey Boys Baseball coach Jose Vargas. “He earned the right to see if he still had it in the end and he did. He showed us a lot of heart.”
Sutaria allowed four runs on seven hits, struck out six, walked four and hit two batters and a gritty complete game effort.
Jersey Boyz built its 5-0 lead on a run in the first inning and four runs in the second. Brandon Schmitt came up with two outs in the top of the first and hit a long shot to right field that Ben Malady chased down near the wall but just couldn’t hold onto. Schmitt steamed into second base. Zach Stagaard, who had good at bats all day for Jersey Boyz, then lofted a fly into shallow right field that Malady, again, chased down near the line but couldn’t get to as Schmitt scored the game’s first run.
Jersey Boyz loaded the bases in the second without the benefit of a hit. Patrick Flaherty reached on an infield error and starting pitcher Hassell issued back-to-back walks. Nicholas then hit a high bouncer back to the mound but the throw to the plate was wild and two runs scored. The wild throw also allowed Watson to race to third base and Nicholas to reach second. Stagaard then followed with a two-run single through the middle to stake Jersey Boyz to a 5-0 advantage.
Lessard came in to close out the second and was outstanding in shutting out Jersey Boyz over 4.2 innings on three hits. He struck out three and walked two. Jack Malady pitched a 1-2-3 sixth for the Fury.
None of the five runs Hassell permitted on four hits over 1.1 innings was earned. He struck out one and walked three. He certainly atoned for his rocky start with one big swing in the sixth inning.
Both teams face the Long Island Body Armor Titans (2-0) on Wednesday. The Fury (1-1) plays the Titans at 8 a.m. at Jack Cust Baseball Academy. Jersey Boyz (1-0-1) take on the Titans at 12:15 p.m. at Diamond Nation’s Field 1. Four days of pool play in the 16U Blue Chip Prospects ends on Thursday evening and the four-bracket playoff field goes for championship gold on Friday morning.