Matias tidy outing keeps Horned Frogs hopping

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 26, 2023

Sam Diamond of the Horned Frogs takes a rip during School’s Out tournament.

By Joe Hofmann

Sebastian Matias wants to be a part of Ridgewood High School’s pitching rotation next spring.

If his outing Saturday afternoon at Diamond Nation’s School’s Out tournament is any indication, he just might be on his way – and might become a big part of it.

The crafty lefty used a two-seamer and curveball and scattered five hits over six innings with five strikeouts to lift his North Jersey Horned Frogs 15U team to a 7-2 victory over Total Skills 2025 Futures.

“Sebastian was awesome,” Horned Frogs coach Joe Crabbe said. “He threw strikes and made them beat him because he didn’t have many walks. He was flawless. He was really good. He’s always like that … calm, cool, and collected.”

Matias is not a finished product and he knows it. He is developing his changeup and is trying to bring up his velocity. That is why he recently joined a gym and hired a personal trainer so that he can develop his leg strength.

He also joined RPP, an indoor baseball facility located in Paramus.

The rising junior pitched well on the Maroons JV last spring, which was encouraging because he missed all of his freshman year with a shoulder injury (to his right, non-throwing shoulder).

Matias wants to take that next step up and show he is on course as he was in command of the Total Skills lineup for much of the game. He had two 1-2-3 innings and didn’t seem at all flustered when he encountered difficulty.

“I need to stay ahead and I want to throw first-pitch strikes, get that first out, and then set up the rest of the inning,” he said.

The Horned Frogs bats, meanwhile, erupted for seven runs despite batting a whopping 13 hitters in its lineup.

Matt Sharkey of Total Skills has a strong at bat during School’s Out tournament.

“We have been struggling at the plate,” Crabbe said. “We did a great job with the timely hitting.”

Matias allowed a first-inning run when Total Skills’ Ernie Sanchez singled home Connor Gryzwacz, who had singled and stole second. But Matias got out of the jam when he fanned cleanup man and losing pitcher Tyler Cooper.

In the bottom of the inning, the Horned Frogs took the lead for good with two runs off Cooper. In a preview of what was to come, the Horned Frogs showed plenty of patience at the plate.

Crabbe’s team drew 10 walks – and five of them scored.

“On 2-and-0, we take, on 3-and-0, we take,” Crabbe said. “We like to be patient and work good at bats.”

Horned Frogs leadoff man Sam Diamond led off with an infield hit but was forced out at second on Kevin Holihan’s grounder. Chris Conti and Jason Espinol walked and Chris Matesio delivered a two-run single to center for a 2-1 lead.

In the bottom of the third, the Horned Frogs showed more patience at the plate with three straight walks to begin the frame – two of them from the very bottom of the order.

No. 12 hitter Garrett Greny and No. 13 hitter Ryan DeSantis walked before Diamond walked. One out later, Conti reached on an infield hit for a run to make it 3-1.

The Horned Frogs busted it open with four in the fifth on only two hits. DeSantis walked (there’s that patience at the plate again), Diamond reached on an infield error, and Holihan’s sac bunt attempt rolled up the third-base line and seemed headed for foul territory but was picked up by Total Skills third baseman James Embart, who couldn’t throw out Holihan.

Sebastian Matias had a terrific outing for the Horned Frogs.

Conti hit a sac fly, Espinol walked and Matesio greeted reliever Sanchez with an RBI infield grounder. J.J. Rella followed with an RBI single.

The outburst made things easier for Matias, who pitched a scoreless sixth to end it.

Matias and the Horned Frogs made great use out of the catching and throwing of Espinol, who nailed three Total Skills baserunners (two of them attempting to steal).

The Horned Frogs defense bailed Matias out of a possible big inning in the fourth with some heads-up defense. With runners on second and third, Sanchez lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Matt Sharkey. But Gryzwacz drifted too far off of second and first baseman Diamond, the cutoff man near the pitcher’s mound, threw to Holihan at second for the double play. After a Cooper base hit, Matias got Collin Tenney on a popup to third.

“When you come to Diamond Nation, it comes down to pitching and defense and that is what we did today,” Crabbe said.

If it was an audition to be a part of Ridgewood’s starting rotation, Matias came through with flying colors. Now he’d like to perform that way in front of Maroons’ two-time state champion coach Kurt Hommen.

“The varsity coach texted me and told me he’d like to come either this weekend or next weekend,” Matias said.

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