Lower Bucks Minutemen’s L.J. Koziak scrambles back to first base in tie game against Hamilton A’s.
By Joe Hofmann
What do you get when you combine the very best that pitchers Connor O’Brien, Zach McLean, Andrew Foster and Nolan Arnold have to offer?
Answer: Swings and misses and zeros on the scoreboard.
Oh yes, and lots of frustrated hitters.
The Hamilton A’s and Lower Bucks Minutemen teams know that feeling all too well.
Neither team was able to get much going in a titanic struggle at the Super 15U Top 25 at Diamond Nation on Monday morning.
The two teams battled to a 1-1 seven-inning tie because those four hurlers – O’Brien and McLean for Lower Bucks, Foster and Arnold for Hamilton – were at the top of their games.
All four threw low 80s fastballs, located their offspeed pitches, and saved them for just the right moments.
There was very little that opposing hitters could do.
Lower Bucks (21-4 with several ties this summer) broke through with a run in the bottom of the first but couldn’t get much going for the rest of the game.
Hamilton? The A’s (20-7-2) tied it with a run in the top of the sixth – but couldn’t plate any other runs.
The two teams were about as close as two teams could be on the same field and that was expected coming in. They have now played three times this summer and split the two games before the deadlock.
“We’ve played evenly all year,” said Lower Bucks coach John Crane. “They have a good program and I like to think that we have a quality program.”
It was a classic pitcher’s duel. O’Brien retired his first 10 batters and pitched 5⅔ innings for Lower Bucks, allowing one run on four hits and striking out eight.
He began to show wear and tear in the sixth, when he got the first two outs before Hamilton finally got to him.
Derek Anson singled to left and O’Brien threw over the first baseman’s head on a pickoff throw before No. 11 batter Frankie Mazzella hit an RBI single to right center to knot the game at 1 and chase O’Brien.
McLean came out of the bullpen and got the final out. He then escaped a bases-loaded, seventh-inning jam to keep the game tied.
With one out, Arnold ripped a first-pitch single to left, A.J. Zuccarello walked and Cameron Bailey walked to load ‘em up but McLean caught Foster looking at a fastball to end the inning.
“Our pitching was excellent,” Crane said. “That’s the way we like to play. We are founded on pitching and defense.”
Foster and Nolan were just as effective against Lower Bucks. Foster went five, fanning seven and allowing only one hit, before giving way to Arnold for the final two innings.
The only run Hamilton allowed was when leadoff man L.J. Koziak walked and later scored on a balk with McLean at the plate in the first.
“Three and two count, two outs, and they called a balk,” Hamilton coach Brian Maglione said. “I’m not sure they should have called that, but whatever.”
Foster allowed one hit, struck out seven, and walked two. Arnold fanned four and walked two, now allowing a hit, in his two innings.
Fittingly, Arnold got the last two outs of the game with strikeouts. With a runner at first (Will Curtin drew a one-out walk), he froze O’Brien looking at a curve for the second out of the seventh and then caught Colin McFadden looking at a fastball to end the game.
“Foster and Nolan are my two big guys,” Maglione said. “(Lower Bucks is) a quality team and we are a quality team. I saved those two pitchers for them because I knew they were a great team. They’re a quality team and you couldn’t ask for a better opponent.”