Learning to work successfully with runners on base often separates the average pitchers from the good ones. Righthander Joe Argenziano of the NJ Giants essentially put on a clinic on Wednesday on how to turn trouble into good fortune.
Argenziano pitched a five-hit shutout, striking out four and walking five as the NJ Giants edged the Locked In Expos 18U, 2-0, in the third game of pool play in the 17/18U Garden State Invitational Wood Bat at Diamond Nation in Flemington. Along the way, Argenziano stranded 10 Locked In Expos base runners.
“It’s helpful to have good fielding behind you,” said Argenziano, who did benefit from three double plays turned by the Giants infield. “Our infield did a good job.” Argenziano (in photo above) battled with at least one base runner aboard in every inning but the seventh.
At the same time, Argenziano made life fairly easy for his defense, often inducing weak contact on ground balls.
“My fastball and slider were working pretty well,” said Argenziano. “I only threw my curveball one or two times because I didn’t have it. I just went away from it.” The fastball and slider would prove to be enough.
The Giants needed every bit of Argenziano’s stubborn disposition with runners on base as Locked In’s righthander Matt Bettio was stifling at times. Despite a two-run second inning rally by the Giants, Bettio permitted just six hits and two runs over six innings while striking out 10 and walking three.
The NJ Giants, 3-0 in pool play with a 10 a.m. game remaining on Thursday opposite GS Surge Team Akadema, would produce its runs in the second with big knocks from the bottom of its lineup. The Giants’ No. 7 hitter, Julian Calle, started it with a one-out looper down the right field line for a single. Nick Kozachuk followed with a laser down the right field line that went all the way to the wall for an RBI triple and a 1-0 lead. Quinn Kressler, the No. 9 hitter, then turned in a quality at bat, bouncing into a groundout that scored Kozachuk from third to extend the lead to 2-0.
That would be all the scoring for the Giants but Argenziano made the two runs stand up while Locked In bounced into double plays in the first, third and fifth innings, stranding the bases loaded in the first and third. Argenziano got himself out a one-out jam in the sixth, too, when Locked In’s John Kubas doubled and Justin Weiss drew a one-out walk. But Argenziano got a strikeout and a fly out to center field to extricate himself from the jam.
Third baseman Kristof Behrens started two of the double plays and second baseman John Creegan was at the front end of the other one. Creegan and shortstop Brian Dovido, both of Ramsey High School, manned the airtight middle of the infield for the Giants.
“Joe battled,” said NJ Giants coach Tim Byron. “He got out of trouble with the double plays and he made good pitches in big spots.”
Bettio got out of his biggest jam in the bottom of the first when the Giants loaded the bases with no outs. Dovidio beat out an infield single and Creegan reached on a fielder’s choice comebacker when Dovidio beat the throw to second. Behrens then walked to load the bases with no outs. But Bettio beared down, striking out the next two batters before inducing a liner to right field for the final out.
Locked In also made two big defensive plays to keep the game close. Creegan hit a rope to right field with a runner aboard and one out in the fifth. But John Kubas snared it and fired to first to catch Kressler trying to get back to the bag for an inning-ending double play. Joe Morin singled to center with two outs in the sixth and Behrens on second. Behrens tried to score but center fielder Malachi Jones cut him down for the final out.
Argenziano got Locked In to go down 1-2-3 in the seventh to nail down the victory.
NOTES: The NJ Giants are sitting at the very top of the tournament standings through three pool play games, having outscored their opponents 14-1. Locked In was 0-3 in pool play. Locked In meets the NJ Jays in its final pool play game at 10 a.m. on Thursday on Field 1. … Dovidio went 2-for-3 with a pair of infield singles and Brandon Woods went 1-for-3 for the NJ Giants. … Ben Gorski had a double and a single and Chris Kubas had two singles for Locked In Expos. … Bettio walked twice in three trips to the plate.