Brady Sayers doubled twice and scored once for Prime Baseball North.
By Rich Bevensee
The Loyalsock 12U ballclub, a team made up of All-Star players from Williamsport, Pa., arrived at Diamond Nation in Flemington with the cards stacked against it.
The Spring Classic promised to be one of ‘The Nation’s’ many tournaments chock-full of club teams which recruit from several towns and sometimes even states.
Some Loyalsock players came in with tempered expectations, to just hang with the better teams. Some came in with chips on their shoulders, to show a town team could compete with the crazy level of talent club teams possess.
Understanding that they may be outmanned talent-wise, the Loyalsock players made a heck of a first impression on Saturday. Blair Bower’s RBI single in the second inning proved to be the go-ahead base knock in Loyalsock’s 6-4 victory over Prime Baseball North of Rochester, N.Y. in Spring Classic 12U pool play on Saturday morning.
“We can basically do anything when we’re together,” said Loyalsock’s Braeden Carper, who singled, doubled and drove in two runs. “We have a lot of confidence and we have each other. We just want to win more games and have a fun time. And we’re here to prove we’re better than most of these teams and we can do anything.”
Dom Vassallo pitched solid five innings for Loyalsock before Parker Frederick came on to pitch a scoreless sixth.
Frederick and Bower proved to be tough outs. Leadoff man Frederick went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and two runs scored. No. 2 hitter Bower also went 2-for-2 with a walk, drove in two runs and scored once.
And the Loyalsock defense was terrific, turning three double plays, with shortstop Dyson Dupont involved in two of them on top of making a pair of top-shelf plays of his own.
“We practice a lot and it’s come together this year,” DuPont said. “We’re pretty confident. There’s a lot of people who can hit but we can also play defense. We know there are a lot of better teams here, but we just try to go in here with our defense and our bats and try to chip away at the score.”
“Defense is huge for us,” Loyalsock coach J.C. Keefer said. “If we can make every routine play and a couple phenomenal plays, we’ll play with anybody. We’ll have games where we don’t make those routine plays and we look like a Little League team and we get blown out, but if we can make those routine plays, we can play with anybody.”
After winning its Diamond Nation opener, Loyalsock (1-1) bowed to Sandlot Baseball Academy 13-2. Loyalsock faced Shelton Siege on Sunday.
Prime (0-2) dropped both ends of its Saturday doubleheader after losing to Shelton Siege, 4-2, in the second game. Prime faced Sandlot in its final pool play game.
It appeared at first that Loyalsock would have an uphill climb at the game’s outset, falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning. Prime’s Chris Leuzzi had an RBI groundout, and Mikey Keller singled a run home and later scored on an infield error.
But Loyalsock began to prove it belonged at ‘The Nation’ by bouncing right back with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Jackson Keefer singled through the middle for the team’s first run and Carper ripped a two-run single into center.
In the bottom of the second, Alex Bjorkman singled but was erased by a double play when Prime second baseman Erik Gomez-Medina fielded a Curtis Lewis grounder, tagged Bjorkman and threw out Lewis.
Loyalsock responded when Frederick singled to left and stole second and third before Bower drove him in for the go-ahead run.
Loyalsock padded its lead in the fourth with a pair of runs for a 6-3 lead. Bower, in the middle of it again, ripped a hot shot down the third base line that Prime third baseman Nolan Soper was able to smother and prevent extra bases, but it was enough to score Lewis from third. DuPont then blooped a ball into shallow right which scored Frederick.
Aaron Allen scored in the game’s final run for Prime when he tripled to left and scored on a throwing error.
Keefer said he brought an older son and his 12-year old Loyalsock team to Diamond Nation a few years ago to teach them how to hang with more talented teams. The lesson still goes on today with this current group.
“It took a couple years for my older son’s group to realize they could compete against club teams,” Keefer said. “We’ve been brainwashing this group into believing they could compete with anybody, and I think they believe us. I think they buy what we were selling them, and they just play baseball. We thought if we could come down here and compete and lose close games, it was going to be a win for us. But these kids came to play.”