Christian Lava of Team Boston Academy 13U prepares to launch a 2-run inside the park HR.
By Rich Bevensee
Diamond Nation opponents – and for that matter any teams waiting to knock off Team Boston Academy 13U back in New England – had better be prepared to battle for an entire game, because coach Ron Jordan’s kids are developing a reputation for never quitting.
Take for instance Team Boston’s Memorial Day Blast tournament opener against the Baltimore Redbirds.
The Redbirds jumped all over Team Boston early and held the lead late into the game. That’s when Team Boston rallied for five runs in the fifth inning – a blowout frame highlighted by Christian Lava’s inside-the-park two-run home run – and extinguished a Baltimore rally in the top of the sixth for a 6-5 victory on Saturday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“It gets a little nerve racking – very nerve racking actually – waiting for the bats to get going, but we played good toward the end. For us it’s all about heart.”
“It’s been our M.O. all year, even in our league in New England,” Jordan said. “We try to wear down the pitchers and see what they have left. And it’s worked all the time. Our kids really grind out the at bats.”
Trailing 4-1 heading into the fifth, leadoff man Cesare Rollo got Team Boston started by racing to second base after his high fly to left field was lost in the sun. Pinch-hitter Patrick Maloney singled up the middle, and Kam Greatorex drove in Rollo with a groundout.
Lava, the next batter, worked the count full before unloading on a middle-in fastball, sending it 360 feet to the right center field fence. With Lava’s speed there was never a question Boston’s cleanup hitter was a cinch for a two-run round-tripper, which tied the game at 4-4.
“My approach with two strikes is to crowd the plate a little bit more, toes on the line, and try to get a base hit up the middle,” said Lava, who chalked up his fourth homer of the spring, his first inside the fences. “I was running pretty fast so when I saw the ball reach the fence I was thinking four all the way.”
Following Lava’s slam, Boston loaded the bases when Tyler Boviard singled to left and Jonathan Stokes and Henry Seabury walked. Avery Koehler forced home the go-ahead run when he was hit by the first pitch he saw, and Gavin Poirier slapped a pinch-hit single to drive in an insurance run for a 6-4 lead.
“These kids never quit,” Jordan said. “We had a couple of tough breaks with double plays and we left a lot of guys on base, but finally we knocked the door down. Christian’s been our best player so it’s no surprise he came through in a big spot there.”
Poirier, who came to relieve Tyler Boviard in the fifth, had the visiting New Englanders biting their nails in the top of the sixth after yielding a run on a bases-loaded RBI groundout as Baltimore creeped to within 6-5.
With the go-ahead runs on second and third, Poirier got the next batter to strikeout to end the drama.
Boviard lasted four innings and permitted four runs on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He attributed poor control to allowing the Redbirds to score three times in the top of the first, but he settled down to yield one run on three hits in his final three innings of work.
“I was throwing a little high and brought it down a little,” said Boviard, working with a two- and four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. “I was rough mentally and I just settled down and took some breaths, and my teammates brought me up. All I was thinking was, ‘Throw strikes. Get some outs. Finish the game.’ ”
Baltimore jumped on Boston in the first with three runs on three hits and an infield error. Warnack reached on an error and Jack Truitt singled before Warnack scored on a wild pitch and Drew Ranck knocked an RBI single into center.
Hayden Myers followed with the biggest hit for the Redbirds, blasting an RBI triple to right before he was thrown out at the plate trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run.
Baltimore tacked on a fourth run in the second for a 4-1 lead after Will Saur singled and eventually scored on a throwing error when he was attempting to steal third.
Saur, the Redbirds second baseman, provided the web gem of the game in the bottom of the first when, with the bases loaded and one out, he dove to his right to snare a grounder and, while seated on the turf, flipped to shortstop Truitt to begin an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play.
Baltimore starter Warnack was terrific in his Diamond Nation debut on the hill, allowing one run on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 3 ⅔ innings. Warnack also caught a hot smash off the bat of Joe Covelluzzi and threw to first to double up Dalton Murphy and ring up another Redbirds inning-ending double play in the second inning.
On Sunday Team Boston is slated to face Whiz Kids Future Stars at 10 a.m. and N.Y. Gothams at 4:30 p.m. before returning on Memorial Day to complete pool play with a contest against Flood City Elite at 10 a.m.
The Redbirds will take on the Diamond Jacks Super 13U club on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. before closing out pool play with a doubleheader on Monday, against Prime Time Aces at 8 a.m. and 5-Star Northeast Browne 13U at 10 a.m.