Chase Mears of Top Level is greeted by teammates after his first 2-run HR in the first inning.
By Sean Reilly
The Top Level Athletics are a 12U team that likes to have fun.
The first clue is their pink uniform tops that sport nicknames of the players on the back, rather than last names.
Chase Mears, the shortstop and No. 2 hitter for the Albany, N.Y.., area team, wore a jersey on Saturday at Diamond Nation that said “Blondie” between his shoulders.
But after the power display Mears put on against 3Up3Down White at the 12U August Showdown, a shirt with “Babe,” “Hammer” or “Judge” on the back would have done just fine.
Mears hit a pair of two-run home runs, both on full counts, as part of a massive 11-run first inning for the Athletics.
He came up again in the third inning, and this time went deep to the opposite field on a two-strike count for his fifth RBI.
Mears came to the plate for a fourth time, with a runner on first with two out in the fourth. This time he was intentionally walked, even with his team ahead by 12 runs.
That two-out decision opened the door for four more runs to score in what wound up as a 22-8 victory for his team in Flemington.
Home runs followed by intentional walks have been a regular thing this summer for the 5-11 Mears, who has yet to turn 13.
“Three for three with three home runs wasn’t bad,” he said. “I was a little mad at the intentional walk, but that’s okay. It happens quite a bit.”
His approach is to hit the ball hard. The home runs are a bonus.
Chase Mears of the A’s scores after his second two-run home run in the first inning.
“I’m looking to get a base hit with a line drive up the middle or into the gaps, trying to work the right side,” he said. “I’m also trying to work the pitcher, get him a little tired in the sun, especially on these hot days, to keep him working.”
The Athletics, who finished the game with 17 hits, started with a flurry.
Cade Kohler (3-for-4) began the game by legging out a single on a ball hit on the right side of the infield. His hustle was rewarded when Mears followed with his first home run, to right-center field.
The next two batters struck out, but the Athletics went back to work in a big way. Mason Sansone singled, Antonio Rivera reached on an error, and both scored when Nicky Desso reached on a two-base error.
Brady Heritage hit an RBI double for a 5-0 lead, and Nico Patesniani walked. After a pitching change, Brody Horton reached on an error that scored both.
Kevin Smith added an RBI single to score Horton, and Smith scored on Kohler’s second hit of the inning.
That sent up Mears. Just like in his first at-bat, the count went full. And once again, he unloaded a home run, this one a little further toward the gap in right-center.
The Athletics added another run in the second, when Heritage looped an RBI single to right field with nobody out to score Rivera.
3Up3Down scored its first run in the bottom of the frame on an error.
Mears came up again with one out in the third, and this time he powered a two-strike pitch over the fence in right field for a 13-1 lead.
“That time I was choking up on the bat a little, just trying to protect the outside corner,” he said.
3Up3Down showed some grit by striking for five runs in the bottom of the third. Graham Breuninger and Damian Polana each reached on errors that scored runs.
The Athletics, however, staged another big inning by tacking on nine runs in the fourth. The big blow was a three-run home run to deep right field by Smith, who ended 2-for-3 with four RBI. Like the three homers supplied by Mears, this one also came with two strikes on the batter.
Top Level A’s third baseman Mason Sansone snares line drive for an out.
3Up3Down got a two-run single in the bottom of the fourth by leadoff batter Tyler Grubb, who finished 3-for-3.
The Athletics followed the win with another impressive performance later in the day, a 14-0 triumph over the Diamond Jacks Gold 12U. One more pool game awaits on Sunday against Intensity Baseball 12U Blue (0-2) before a likely appearance in the playoffs. The Athletics are part of a six-team pool in the 10-team field that will send two teams on to the playoffs.