Kratz’s two-hit shutout, lethal bats guide PA Shockers 15U

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 3, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

There is no accounting for how much of a father’s athletic genes are passed on to his son. 

But this much is certain. Ethan Kratz seems to have a brilliant future in baseball, and his Major League dad insists it’s all due to the hard work his son has poured into his passion.

Kratz, a lanky right-handed pitcher with the PA Shockers 15U baseball team, channeled his frustration from an earlier game into a dominant performance and vaulted his team to its first tournament championship of the season. 

After yielding a triple on his very first pitch of the game, Kratz used a stifling mix of his fastball and off-speed weapons to author a two-hit shutout and propel the Shockers to a 9-0 victory in five innings over Tri-State Arsenal 2027 South in the 15U Red Bracket final of the Home Run Classic Powered by Victus on Sunday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

Kratz was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Kratz’ father, Eric Kratz, spent parts of 11 seasons (2010-2020) as a catcher with nine Major League teams. 

“He’s struggled with control so to see him come out and do this, it’s really awesome,” Eric Kratz said. “It’s way better than playing, and I enjoyed playing.

“It’s different when it’s your son. You’re sitting there and you expect them to conduct themselves a certain way and work hard, so when they work the way I see them work and then it comes to fruition on the field, it’s definitely a proud moment.”

The Kratz family is no stranger to Arsenal coach Steven Hickey, who coached Ethan Kratz’ elder brother Brayden and who followed the father’s career. That’s why Hickey was not surprised to see Ethan Kratz perform so well on the big stage.

Kratz’ fastball reached 84 mph and hovered in the high 70s. His curveball and slider confounded Arsenal batters to the tune of nine strikeouts in five innings. Kratz, who just completed his freshman season at Dock Mennonite Academy in Lansdale, Pa. (his dad’s alma mater), yielded just two hits and two walks. 

“I had a history with Ethan – I coached his older brother Brayden so I knew he had the skill,” Hickey said. “He was on today and he mixed it up well. He threw his curveball at different speeds so it wasn’t a direct 68-69 curveball. It was all over.”

Considering Eric Kratz’ wealth of Major League experience and all that he could teach, his son said the biggest piece of advice his father has shared is mental, not technical.

“Usually he talks to me about mechanics – something I did wrong or something I did right,” Kratz said. “But the one thing that sticks with me is that you can always control your emotions and your mindset. That’s the one thing you can control in baseball.”

That advice proved to be crucial to Kratz’ state of mind on Sunday.

The frustration which tormented Kratz stemmed from what he considered a sub-par performance in the Shockers’ previous game, a 4-1 victory over Cage Academy of Hazlet, N.J., in the semifinals.

That frustration carried over into the championship game, where Caldwell tripled on Kratz’ first pitch. Kratz also gave up a walk and a hit batsman in the inning but used two strikeouts and a fielder’s choice to escape without damage. 

In the second inning Kratz was a different pitcher. The 6-1, 170-pound righty struck out the side and stormed off the mound with a primal scream which jump-started his teammates. 

“After the first inning I was thinking, ‘You gotta lock in,’ and I kept quiet and to myself, thinking about what I needed to do,” Kratz said. “After that second inning, all that quiet, keeping it condensed, it all came out. I let my emotions get out. It felt amazing. It was a great experience.”

“What I love about Ethan the most is his energy and his presence,” Shockers coach Tyler Batdorf said. “You know he’s there, you know he’s throwing. He always has energy in the dugout, at the plate, in centerfield, on the mound, wherever he’s at. He’s a great kid.”

Kratz enjoyed a wealth of offensive support, and it came early in the form of a six-run second inning. The big explosion in that frame came from Lochlan Everitt, who slugged an inside-the-park, three-run home run. 

Arsenal pitcher Josh Caldwell threw two fastballs by Everitt before the Shockers’ shortstop connected. Everitt slashed a line drive to left center field where Arsenal left fielder Tyler Jorett and center fielder Matthew Lawless both dove for the ball and missed. The ball squirted between the two and rolled to the fence while Everitt raced around the bases.

“I thought it was going to drop but I didn’t think it would get past them,” Everitt said. “I saw the ball rolling so I was running as hard as I could. I thought my coach was going to stop me at third but he waved me on and I just kept running.”

Before Everitt’s romp, his twin brother Anderson Everitt and Wyatt Moyer drove in runs with bases-loaded walks, and Kratz made it 3-0 with a fielder’s choice RBI.

Ethan Kratz, right, earned the 15U Home Run Classic MVP. Enjoying the moment with him, at left, is his dad, former major league catcher Erik Kratz.

Anderson Everitt added another run in the top of the third with a bases-loaded RBI single, a hard shot which Arsenal third baseman Jaxon Magner dove to stop but had nowhere to throw.

The Shockers added two more runs in the fourth. Wes Mathe singled through the left side to drive in Lochlan Everitt and Andrew Padamanabhan singled up the middle to score Charlie Keith. 

After striking out the side in the second inning, Kratz allowed just four more baserunners over the next three innings. Two of them reached second – one was erased trying to steal third, and the second was out on a fielder’s choice. 

Even with runners on base, Kratz’ teammates knew their ace was in command.

“They (Arsenal hitters) were late on most of his pitches and he had some really good offspeed stuff,” Lochlan Everitt said. “They really couldn’t hit it hard off him so it was pretty reassuring because I didn’t want them to come back.”

The Shockers finished the tournament 4-1. In pool play they defeated Generals Baseball Academy (14-0) and Valley Baseball (2-1) and lost to Iron Nine Baseball White 2-0. 

“We weren’t consistent with the bats all weekend so it was great to see them put it together today,” Batdorf said. “We had our ups and downs but when we have our energy, we’re going to do really well. We’re going to win a lot of games.”

Arsenal, the 15U Red top seed, reached the final by going undefeated in pool play, having beaten the Tinton Falls Diamondbacks (8-4) and Maine Lightning (8-3) and tying 9ers Baseball (3-3). 

“By no means does that score (9-0) dictate who we are,” Hickey said. “We lost our frame of approach in the first round of at bats. I don’t know if you caIl it intimidation, but we’re going to shake it off. We’ve got a long way to go – five more of these (tournaments) and then a big one in Louisiana. It’s a great group here. They just need to get comfortable with one another.”

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