Travis Kerr wasn’t quite sure he got all of it, but he certainly kept a close eye on the blast he sent deep to left field with the bases loaded in the fifth inning for Go Yard Gators Scout.
Kerr’s shot did clear the left field fence at Diamond Nation’s Field 1 for a grand slam that broke open the Columbus Day Showdown Wood Bat championship game and sent Go Yard to an 8-3 victory over Pro Skills 17U Select.
The Columbus Day Showdown field was drawn from the top teams in the Super 17 and 18U Wood Bat tournaments held in September.
Pro Skills’ right-handed reliever Steve Slatter just missed on a 1-2 curveball to Kerr on the pitch before the home run. “The curveball was close,” said Kerr. “I was looking fastball on the next pitch. I knew I hit it well but going down the first base line I didn’t know if it was hit well enough.”
The grand slam capped a five-run outburst for Go Yard that suddenly turned a 2-2 tie into a 7-2 lead for the Chester, N.J.-based club. Back-to-back doubles by Logan Reilly and Jake Olson triggered the rally and a walk by Kyle Gordon and Ethan Karel’s hit-by-pitch loaded the bases.
Go Yard used the long ball to strike early against the talented Pro Skills squad. The lefty-hitting Nick Sylvester, the Gators’ catcher, launched a low inside fastball over the right field fence with one out in the top of the first inning.
“We wanted to jump on them early and Nick’s home run gave us a nice confidence boost,” said Kerr.
But Pro Skills (2-1), as one might expect, had a quick answer and that came in the form of a two-run double by Nick Tamburro in the bottom of the second. Pro Skills’ starting pitcher Tyler Lender started the rally with a leadoff triple to straight away center field. Kris Giangreco drew a one-out walk before Tamburro sliced his double down the right field line. Go Yard minimize the damage though when a perfect relay nailed Giangreco at the plate. Tamburro, who took third on the throw home, scored when Sean Ahrens reached on an infield fielding error.
Go Yard (2-0-1) manufactured a run in the top of the third to tie the game at 2-2. Reilly (2-for-3, 2 runs), the No. 9 hitter, started things by beating out a grounder to the left side. He took second on a wild pitch and scored when Sylvester dropped a looper into short left field for a two-out RBI single.
Down 7-2, Pro Skills got its first three runners aboard in the bottom of the fifth on singles by Tamburro, Ahrens and Frank Romond. Tamburro actually reached third when his single to right was misplayed into three bases. He scored on Ahrens single to shave the deficit to 7-3. But righty reliever Cole Sudano stopped the rally right there, striking out the next three batters in order.
Go Yard tacked on an insurance run in the top of the sixth and Sylvester, in the middle of things again, drew a two-out walk to ignite the mini rally. Sylvester took second on a wild pitch and scored when Justin Sinibaldi dropped a pop-up just inside the left field line and out of the reach of everyone for an RBI single.
Pro Skills is certainly not the type of team to fold the tents in face of adversity and it managed to get a pair of runners on in the bottom of the sixth as Myles Bowery and Eric Schnoll singled. But an outstanding play at third base by Gordon short-circuited the threat.
Gordon made an excellent backhanded stab on a shot by Lender with Bowery on first base and one out. He then turned and fired to second for the forceout and second out of the inning. That proved critical when Schmoll followed with a single to left field. Reliever Pat Benn then induced a fly ball to center field to end the game.
“We definitely take pride in our defense,” said Gordon. “Everyone on this team is capable of making a big play. It’s a big part of our game.”
Sudano picked up the victory in relief and it was well-deserved. The righty limited Pro Skills to one run on four hits over three innings — the third, fourth and fifth — striking out seven and walking one. Lender pitched four strong innings for Pro Skills, permitting two runs, only one of which was earned, on three hits. He struck out three and walked two. The game was tied 2-2 when Lender departed.
Go Yard qualified for the championship game in dramatic fashion, striking for five runs in its last at bat to tie Full Count Prospects 17U 2021, 7-7. The tie was enough to earn the Gators the championship berth. Go Yard Gators Scout outscored it’s tournament opponents 22-10. Pro Skills 17U Select hed a 14-12 runs advantage on its opponents.