Ryan Barry had two productive games for Whitehouse on Wednesday in the Fall League playoffs.
By Rich Bevensee
It’s not exactly Blitzball in the backyard, but brothers Jimmy and Ryan Lundari are enjoying one of their rare seasons of playing on the same team.
Their particular brand of enthusiasm and familiarity was evident Wednesday evening, as Jimmy, a senior at Hunterdon Central, and Ryan, a sophomore, teamed up to propel Whitehouse Post 284 into the championship game of the Diamond Nation Fall League playoffs.
With Jimmy behind the plate, Ryan pitched two scoreless innings of relief to secure Whitehouse’s 7-1 victory over the Bucks County (Pa.) Generals.
“It’s just like being back in the backyard,” Ryan said after striking out four and hitting two batters in his two innings of work. “He’s always been a catcher so we always threw in the backyard that way. Throwing to him, it’s just easier. Less pressure. He treats me like any other pitcher, but I like him catching me. It’s just comfortable. I live with him, so it’s easy.”
“I love his competitiveness,” Jimmy said of his brother. “It was always heated in the backyard and it’s cool to see it paying off on the field when we’re on the field together.”
Post 284 went on to capture the Fall League title and finish the season 15-1 after earning a five-inning 8-0 victory over Hustle Baseball 17U in the championship game. Earlier Wednesday evening, Hustle defeated Montgomery Superior 4-2 in the other semifinal.
The Lundaris are savoring their first season as regular teammates since they played 9U ball together. Ryan was a guest player on the Whitehouse team this summer and was caught by Jimmy both times he pitched. This fall he’s been a regular on coach Steve Farsiou’s squad.
“Back in 9U I threw to him once, so this is the first time that we’ve consistently been on a team together,” Ryan said. “It’s been cool to finally be on the same team, and now he’s going away to college next year.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Jimmy, a 6-1, 180-pound Scranton commit. “We grew up always playing catch in the yard, always long tossing together, but we never got a chance to play in games together. This is our first season with each other since 9U. He got invited to guest play in the summer and that was cool. He was at Zoned and I was hoping he would join us because we’re a good squad. It’s like all the work we put in together finally paid off on the field together. It’s been awesome.”
Ryan, a 6-2, 175-pound righty, threw 30 pitches in two innings while exhibiting a well-located fastball and a curveball that bent considerably when thrown well.
“He’s got a good fastball, there’s good life on it,” Jimmy said. “Another thing I like is he’s always attacking with his pitches, always throwing strikes. It’s really important to the game.
“I’d like to see more consistency with his curveball. It’s either on or it’s off. He’s letting it go off the back of his hand or choking it. He’ll get more consistent with time. He’s got time to develop it.”
Jimmy described some sibling rivalry which boiled over on occasion when they were younger, but he said their father was always nearby to break up arguments and then join in the backyard battles.
That familial competitiveness carried over years later to the coronavirus quarantine, when the brothers engaged in countless Blitzball wars. But Ryan pointed out that no matter how hot the games got, they always wanted to keep playing together.
“There was always so much beef whenever we played together at home,” Jimmy said. “During Covid we used to play Blitzball together – it’s like wiffle ball – and we spent hours during quarantine just going at it, throwing sliders, having fun. There were no fists, just a lot of bickering. Dad had to come out a few times.”
The Lundaris will team up once more next spring for one season of high school ball at Central, and one more summer season with the Post 284 club.
The fact that Ryan has made a seamless transition to a Whitehouse team loaded with upperclassmen was not lost on older brother Jimmy, who repeatedly expressed his pride for how his brother has grown as a player. On Post 284’s 17-man roster, Ryan is one of only five sophomores.
And Ryan pointed out it was important to him to come into a game where starter Ryan Schultz (Hunterdon Central) had pitched so well for four innings. Schultz, a Hunterdon Central senior, allowed one run on two hits and four walks with five strikeouts, and he escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in his fourth and final inning of work with an inning-ending strikeout.
“I like Ryan’s confidence,” Jimmy said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s playing with seniors and he’s got a lot of confidence. When he goes on the mound I don’t think you can tell he’s a sophomore. I love his determination and his drive to get better. He digs deep.”
Schultz and the younger Lundari received plenty of offensive backing in the semifinal game. Whitehouse drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning when Kaleb McGann (Hunterdon Central) belted a two-run triple to dead center field.
Bucks County made it a one-run ball game in the top of the third when No. 11 hitter Noah Wilson swatted an RBI double to left. That would be the only run Whitehouse would allow. Schultz and Lundari stranded a combined eight baserunners, four in scoring position.
In the bottom of the third Ryan Barry (Chatham) socked an opposite-field double to right to drive in one run and later scored on a double steal (with North Hunterdon’s Brad Kneller taking second) to give Whitehouse a 4-1 lead.
Logan Escamilla (Hunterdon Central) showed off his power with an opposite field triple into the right field corner which drove in one run, and he later scored on a wild pitch for a 6-1 Whitehouse lead. Barry tacked on Post 284’s final run in the sixth with an RBI single.
“It’s very comfortable not having to worry about being backed up by the offense,” Ryan said. “They have always been a group of guys who are hitting and it’s great having that leeway.”
For Bucks County, Liam McNeill, a Perkiomen Valley sophomore, pitched 4⅔ innings and allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Ryder Olson allowed one run on one hit and four walks with one strikeout in his 1⅓ innings of work.