Jeremy Stranix of the Bell Ringers receives throw to retire Wade Haney of the Cardinals.
By Sean Reilly
Winning isn’t the only reason that teams travel to Diamond Nation to compete at the Super 17 Invitational.
The age 17-18 wood bat tournament also serves as a showcase, where players have the opportunity to impress the dozens of college coaches who are on hand throughout the five-day event.
That’s why the Virginia Cardinals and Bell Ringers 2023 out of Pennsylvania both wanted to win when they faced off on Monday night in their opening games at the event, but were okay that the seven-inning contest ended in a 5-5 tie in Flemington.
“Our goals for the week are really just to put these boys out in front of 30 or 40 coaches showing up here and making sure that we play a good brand of baseball,” Cardinals coach James Wilkerson said. “That’s what the Virginia Cardinals are known for, and we just want to keep that up.”
That focus is why he used five pitchers in the game, which played a role in the Bell Ringers scoring three times in the top of the seventh to erase a 5-2 deficit.
Likewise, the Bell Ringers showed their grit in staging that rally, which included a number of clutch at-bats that would impress any of the college coaches who were watching behind the plate or up above in the scout tower.
“We play to win,” Bell Ringers coach Ken Elkind said. “We showed some good things toward the end. We have some talent on the team and we have high expectations. To bounce back like we did was great to see, to have AB’s like that and to compete.”
The Bell Ringers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, which began with a single by Hudson Narke and a walk to Jackson Simko. They each stole a base while the next two batters struck out, and an infield single to third base by leadoff man Jack Stead brought in the first run. Simko stole home with the other run as Stead created a rundown between first and second before being tagged out.
The Cardinals scored all five of their runs in the bottom of the third. With one out, Wyatt Raymond was hit by a pitch and Bryce Vick (who also had a solid two-inning pitching stint during the middle innings) hit a full-count grounds rule double to left field. Leadoff hitter Cam Johnson then walked on four pitches to load the bases.
Cole Feldman drew a four-pitch walk to score the first run and Wade Haney hit a two-run hump-back single to right field for a 3-2 lead. After a pitching change, Ty Howlette hit a single that scored a run after an overthrow to third base. The final run in the inning crossed on a ground out to third by Pierce Butler.
The score held until the top of the seventh, when the Bell Ringers staged their rally. It started with Stead legging out a single to shortstop, which was followed by an RBI double to left center from Jeremy Stranix. Walks to Trey Tiffan and Tim Dickinson loaded the bases.
The Cardinals then changed pitchers. Matthew Tsiaris hit a productive ground out to first base which scored a run to cut the deficit to 5-4, and Bobby Kleckner walked to reload the bases. The next hitter struck out, but Narke drew a walk to tie the score.
The Cardinals had one final shot in the bottom of the seventh, and had runners on first and second after a walk and hit by pitch. But the next two batters were retired on a pop to shortstop and fly out to center field.
The Cardinals will play their second of five games against Syracuse UA Sports Zone (0-1) on Tuesday at 4:30. The Bell Ringers return to play the East Cobb Patriots (1-0), also on Tuesday at 4:30.