Christopher Klueber slides home with the tying run in the fifth inning for Team Boston.
By Rich Bevensee
Hustle. Grit. Energy. Whatever that spark of talent is which every team needs, Christopher Klueber has it, and the Team Boston 17U Rams (Evans) are better for it.
With his team trailing by a run, Klueber stretched a run-of-the-mill single into a double and then took third and home on wild pitches. That mad dash around the bases not only tied the game, it sparked a six-run rally which propelled Team Boston to a 7-3 victory over Northeast Pride in Week 2 of the Super 17 Invitational on Thursday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Without that double we may not win this game,” Rams coach Frank Vilacha said.
“I like to bring energy to the team,” Klueber said. “I’ve always been loud as a kid. I know my job is to bring energy in the right way and help the team out.”
Team Boston, of Reading, Mass., improved to 2-0 for the tournament, having mercy-ruled Locked In Baseball Expos 16U Blue 2025, 11-1, earlier this week. The Rams are slated to play a doubleheader on Friday, facing Prospects Baseball Blue at 10 a.m. and Academy Stars at 12:15 p.m.
Klueber, who had singled earlier in the game, led off the bottom of the fifth inning with Team Boston trailing 2-1. Pride starter Ashton Hotaling had pitched well to that point, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with a pair of strikeouts.
Klueber lofted a shallow fly into right-center field which appeared to be an easy out, but it fell nonetheless for a base hit. That’s when Klueber took matters into his own hands.
“I’m thinking right out of the box, two, because when you hit it in the air you gotta’ hustle it out,” said the 5-9, 165-pound Klueber. “I saw it start to fall in and I was like, ‘Oh shoot,’ and I turned on the jets because I was going for two.
“When I saw it drop I was like, he’s gonna be lazy with the ball, so I just took second base. Since it was shallow I knew he was not expecting me to go two. I knew that throw was going to be lazy, as you could tell he was lazy with it and I took advantage.”
Klueber would be Hotaling’s final batter. Klueber advanced to third on a wild pitch from the Pride reliever, and scored on a wild pitch two pitches later.
Vilacha, who played baseball collegiately at the University of New Haven and overseas in Belgium and Australia, said the kind of effort Klueber brings to the field is extremely rare.
“One or two guys out of 10 will have that in them,” Vilacha said. “It’s something you cannot teach. He wants it. He’s a grinder. It’s something that’s internal.”
Once Klueber scored, the Rams sent nine more batters to the plate and scored a total of six runs on four hits and three walks. Matt Nardone scored on a balk, and William Everett drove in a run with a groundout to make it 4-2.
Gabe Tanous drove the big nail in the coffin with a two-run triple to right center. And Derek Gesmondi added an RBI single.
Vilachi said the entire rally was due to the impetus Klueber brought to the lineup.
“Chris is an energy guy,” Vilacha said. “I tell him every time you have an opportunity, put pressure on the other team, as long as you do something to excite this team, and he’s that guy. He did it the other day and today he did it again. He gave us that energy and after that, you saw that everyone started hitting.”
Nick Caputo was responsible for driving in one of the two runs for Northeast Pride.
Jason Potvin pitched the first four innings for Team Boston and allowed two runs on four hits, struck out two and walked one. He was relieved by Jayden Souza who pitched a clean fifth inning.
In the top of the sixth, Souza looked a little shaky, allowing two walks and a single to three of the first four batters. Souza then induced a one-out comebacker but a throwing error allowed Prime to score to make it 7-3 with the tying run coming to the plate.
It was time for a chat with Coach Vilacha.
“I try not to say too much about mechanics,” Vilacha said. “I try to calm his mind. Usually a pitcher’s mind starts spinning a little bit so I try to say something like, ‘What are you having for dinner?’ Something off-topic just to calm them down a little bit, and then they fall back into rhythm. These are all athletes and sometimes you need to remind them of that.”
Souza, refocused, got a fly ball for the second out and ended the game with a called strike three.
Northeast Pride (0-2) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Nick Caputo singled up the middle to drive in Charles Boucher. Pride made it 2-0 in the second when Brian Hoffman singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Brady Fallon single.
Pride has two more games remaining on Friday, against NJ Pride Zoom Baseball Academy 2024 at 10 a.m., and against Heavy Hitters 4 at 2:30 p.m.