Mid-Atlantic Ghost’s Mike Wansaw, left, and Matt King held the Long Island Mudcats to four hits.
By Rich Bevensee
After coaching the Mid-Atlantic Ghost 16U quad all summer, Gerry Patrizio was asked by club management to helm the 18U ballclub for the fall season and kick things off at the Labor Day Blast at Diamond Nation.
If the new season goes as smoothly as the first four games, Patrizio may ask management to stay with this older group because he loves what he sees.
“They come ready to play, they’re hard workers and they want to win,” Patrizio said. “They do the little things right. And best of all, everything is team oriented. There’s no selfishness.”
On Sunday, Mid-Atlantic Ghost closed out pool play with such a well-balanced performance, it would be a major surprise not to see them bring home the age group trophy on Monday evening.
Mike Wansaw and Matt King combined for a five-inning four-hitter, Michael Ortiz drove in three runs and Christian Zito plated two, and Ghost knocked off the Long Island Mudcats 11-2 to finish pool play undefeated at “The Nation” in Flemington.
“This weekend it’s been about trying to get the job done, scoring runs and keeping ahead of the other team, and trying to get a top seed for tomorrow,” Ortiz said.
Indeed, Mid-Atlantic Ghost finished pool play as the only undefeated team after outscoring the opposition 24-5, and will await the semifinal winner between PS2 Academy (3-1) and the South Jersey Young Guns (3-1), who will meet on Monday at 3:15 p.m. The championship game is slated for 5:30 p.m.
Ghost starter Wansaw (a 2022 Union Catholic graduate headed for Peddie for a post-grad year) allowed two runs on two hits and four walks with one strikeout in 2⅔ innings. King, a rising senior at Ocean Township, pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings while allowing two hits and one walk with four whiffs.
“I felt great. It was a beautiful day for baseball,” King said. “I was throwing my curveball, cutter and fastball. I tried my two-seam but that didn’t work too well. My cutter was my best pitch today. Got a couple swing-and-misses, a couple watching when it hit the outside corner.”
The fact that Wansaw and King were able to hold the Mudcats at bay was an exceptional achievement when keeping in mind the Mudcats piled up nine runs in a win over The Yard Wolfpack 18U right before they took on Mid-Atlantic.
“We got a strong pitching performance from both those guys,” Patrizio said. “In fact, the pitching’s been strong all weekend. It’s a testament to the work these guys put in the offseason. They’re coming off a good summer and a couple weeks break and they’re still getting after it. They pounded the zone and let the D work behind them.”
So while Wansaw and King were frustrating Mudcat batters, the Ghost lineup scored in almost every way imaginable – run-scoring hits and bases-loaded walks, and taking home on passed balls and errors.
“Being opportunistic is what we preach,” Patrizio said. “We want to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes. Put pressure on them if we can. Frustrate them. That’s what we want to do.”
The Tinton Falls-based Ghost squad salted the game away with a four-run third inning, in which Zito, a rising senior at Monmouth Reg., roped a two-run single to highlight the frame which put Ghost ahead 9-2.
Ortiz, who had a bases-loaded RBI walk in Mid-Atlantic’s four-run first inning, added a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth.
“I’ve actually had a great summer,” Ortiz said. “Right from the start I’ve been killing it at the plate. High average, high on-base percentage. Very happy with how it’s been going.”
Mid-Atlantic revved their offensive engine with a four-run first inning. Michael Kansky looped a single over shortstop for an RBI, and Ortiz, Zito and Spencer Hobson earned three straight bases-loaded walks to give Ghost a 4-0 lead.
With the bases still loaded, Mudcat shortstop Scotty Whitbeck kept the score from getting out of hand early with a terrific diving catch of Steven Miller’s two-out line drive.
In the second inning, Andrew Hausman cranked a long fly into center which Kevin Brown tracked perfectly but couldn’t bring in, and that miscue scored Jack Tallent for a 5-0 lead.
The Mudcats trimmed their deficit in the top of the third when Matt Hesselberg ripped an RBI double into the right field corner, and Nick Laliwala knocked in another run with a fielder’s choice groundout.
Mid-Atlantic exploded for another four-run inning in the third, beginning when Zito blasted a two-run single. Ortiz then scored on a passed ball, and Zito scored from second on the same play when the throw to the plate got away.
Ortiz capped the scoring with his two-run single in the fourth.
For the Mudcats, Tyler Barrero pitched two innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts. Whitbeck came on in relief for the final two innings and yielded six runs (five earned) on seven hits and one walk with one strikeout.
The Mudcats split their weekend pool games, edging PPH Mafia 3-2, bowing to the South Jersey Young Guns 5-3, and beating the Wolfpack 9-3 before succumbing to Ghost 11-2.