Lech’s masterpiece steers Lawrence Thunder in Super 15U

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 19, 2023

Lawrence Thunder leadoff hitter David Krier singled, walked, drove in a run and scored once.

By Rich Bevensee

Joe Lech was absolutely cruising through the opposing lineup. He allowed just one baserunner to reach in five innings and still managed to crank out five perfect frames of three up, three down. 

The Lawrence Thunder 15U lefthander began the sixth by notching a pair of strikeouts to come within one out of a six-inning no-hitter.

Suddenly, Canes New Jersey 2026 spoiled Lech’s masterpiece, stringing together three straight singles to not only ruin his no-no, but his shutout bid as well.

Despite missing his chance at achieving a personal milestone, Lech was upbeat and even excited about his performance after the Thunder secured a 10-1 pool play victory in the Super 15 Invitational Powered by Victus on Tuesday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“I’ve been pretty consistent this summer but this was my best game, by far,” said Lech, a rising sophomore at Notre Dame in Lawrenceville, who pointed out the high 80s heat and even higher turf temperature didn’t phase him. “I was actually very comfortable today because I was throwing well, so it was pretty great. We were hitting well and no one made errors, so I can let them (the Canes) hit and I don’t have to strike everybody out.”

It was a good bounce-back win for the Thunder (1-1-1), which bowed to Atlantic Reign, 4-3, the day before. The Thunder have since tied PS2 Academy, 7-7, and will face the Lower Bucks Minutemen on Thursday at 12:15 p.m.

“When we’re clicking and everything’s going right and everyone does their job we’re a solid ballclub,” Lawrence coach Ken Dobkin said. 

The Canes are off to a 0-3 start in the Super 15 Invitational. After losing to Prospects Baseball, 11-3, the Thunder and Atlantic Reign, 8-0, the Canes will try to salvage the week against PS2 Academy on Thursday at 12:15 p.m.

Lech, a 5-9, 140-pound righty, mixed a two-seam fastball with a change-up and curveball, with the latter being the main reason for eight strikeouts. 

He retired the first six batters, then allowed a leadoff walk to David Makowka in the third. Makowka was quickly erased when Lech induced a 1-6-3 double play, and Lech retired the next nine batters.

David Holland singled and scored to ignite Lawrence Thunder’s four-run rally in the fifth inning.

“When Joe’s in a zone and he’s throwing strikes and mixing his spots and speeds, he’s a really good pitcher,” Dobkin said. “He was just on today, locating very well. He was spotting up all three pitches. When he’s doing that he’s a pretty tough pitcher.”

The Thunder backed Lech’s terrific effort with 10 runs on 13 hits and two walks. Eight batters in the 12-man lineup notched a base hit, 10 reached base and six scored at least once.

One of the main contributors to Lawrence’s balanced offense was No. 11 hitter Seneca Sumners, a rising sophomore at Lawrence High. Sumners singled twice, drove in a run and scored twice before cranking a two-run triple to fuel a three-run sixth. It was his first triple of the season.

“It doesn’t matter where you hit, you have to produce and at least have productive at bats,” Sumner said. “It’s comfortable when Joe’s pitching like that and you have a large lead. It relaxes you. We get hits, he pitches and gets outs. And it’s hot so we all want to get in the dugout.”

Lawrence scored once in the second inning on a Matthew Smith RBI single. The lead grew to 3-0 in the third when David Krier drove in Sumners and later scored on a wild pitch.

In the fifth, A.J. Cimino, Sumners and Drew Dobkin strung together consecutive RBI singles, and Connor Willever added a sac fly for a 7-0 Thunder lead. 

Aiden Poot added a run in the sixth when he scored on a David Holland fielder’s choice, as Poot slid under the tag at home. Then came Sumner’s two-run triple to slam an exclamation point on the offense. 

Matthew Smith joined Sumner in the three-hit club on Tuesday, and Smith also drove in a run and scored twice. Also for Lawrence, Poot singled twice and scored twice. Holland singled, drove in a run and scored twice, and both Cimino and David Krier contributed RBI singles. 

The Canes finally found a chink in Lech’s armor in the bottom of the sixth. Down to their least out, the Canes got consecutive singles by Makowka and Liam Ramos before Colin Van Es slapped a single through the right side to score Makowka.

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