Naylor, Holdren handle new roles calmly for Kings PA 15U

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 15, 2024

Luke Raines singled in a run for Kings in the third inning after the rain halted play for 30 minutes.

By Rich Bevensee

Gabe Naylor hadn’t played first base in four years, at least not since Little League. Before the club baseball season began, Wyatt Holdren had not started a game on the mound in as long as he could remember.

This isn’t a fish out of water story. This is how ballplayers adapt and thrive when faced with a new challenge. 

Naylor made a highlight reel-worthy play at first while going 2-for-2 with four RBI, Holdren pitched a two-hitter and drove in two runs, and Kings Baseball PA rolled to a 14-2 three-inning victory over Northeast Supreme Knights Underclass in Father’s Day Classic pool play on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Naylor, the team’s No. 3 batter, made the most noise in the Kings lineup with his bat – he walked with the bases loaded in the first inning, singled in two runs in the second, and doubled home a run in the third. But Naylor, a rising sophomore at Malvern Prep in Malvern, Pa., made the play of the game at a position he hadn’t manned since fifth grade. 

In the top of the third, the Knights’ Jackson Torselli ripped a line drive headed for the hole on the right side but Naylor dove to his right to spear the grounder and flip to Holdren running to cover first. 

“Wyatt’s normally our starting first baseman and our backup first baseman is down with a hamstring injury, so Gabe got the call,” Melconian said. “Gabe hasn’t played first since Little League and here we are. He can play anywhere – third base, shortstop, second base, outfield – he’s a versatile guy.”

“When Coach told me, I was like, ‘I’ll go play where I gotta’ play,’ ” said Naylor, a rising sophomore at Malvern Prep. “I’ll do what I gotta’ do.”

Holdren, a 5-11, 195-pound righty who pitched in relief for the Avon Grove (West Grove, Pa.) junior varsity team this spring, was making just his second start in the last calendar year. His first was last week, for Kings in a tournament in Leesport, Pa.

Wyatt Holdren drove a two-run single to right for Kings Baseball PA.

“Wyatt’s been turning the corner pitching-wise recently, but he was pretty dominant today, that’s the main thing,” Melconian said.  

Aiden Nugent hit Holdren’s first pitch of the game for a single to left. Joss Granas hit Holdren’s second pitch over the right field fence for a two-run home run.

But Holdren settled down to retire eight of the next nine, allowing only one more hit and striking out five using his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider.

“Yeah, that home run was a mistake over the middle of the plate,” Holdren said. “I was kind of mad about that, but I just tried to avoid the mistakes after that and threw more off-speed pitches to keep them off balance.”

Holdren said he’s just getting used to being a starter, but said he still looks forward to being called upon late in a high-leverage situation.

“I liked being the (JV team’s) closer, but not on back to back days,” Holdren said. “I would still choose relief pitching because I like the high pressure situations, coming in with the bases loaded. But today was a good learning experience. I liked it. I don’t know which one I like more now, starting or relieving.”

Besides Naylor and Holdren, other leading hitters for Kings were J.P. Jandrisitz, who had a three-run double; Luke Raines, who went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI; and Shane Dwyer who went 2-for-3. Leadoff hitter Kevin Byrness walked and scored three times. 

Kings PA dropped a 9-1 decision to Locked In Baseball Expos later on Friday. The Knights were swept in their Friday evening doubleheader after losing to the New Jersey Rising Rebels, 11-5. 

Kings PA plays the Rising Rebels on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. The Knights take on the Expos Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Share With A Friend:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *