Jake Park lays down a perfect sac bunt to set up the winning run for the NJ Saints in the fifth inning.
By Rich Bevensee
Gotta’ hand it to Krish Patel, who was throwing zeroes on the scoreboard while his adversary was doing the same to his teammates.
Patel, a 6-2 righthander, stayed the course for the New Jersey Saints and never let a temporary lack of offense affect his performance on the mound.
Patel’s persistence paid off, because his teammates eventually came to the rescue. Jake Park laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move runners over before Ben Reed laced an RBI single to break up a scoreless game, and Patel and the Saints went on to blank Raleigh Baseball Institute, 5-0, in Super 17 World Series pool play on Monday morning at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“The whole focus for me, especially early on in this game when we weren’t getting any hits, was to shut them down, hit the box and help my team out and relieve some of the pressure,” said Patel, a rising junior at Hillsborough High.
Patel, in trying to keep pace with Raleigh righty Cam Schaffer, turned in one of his finest outings of the season, a seven-inning shutout with three hits, two walks and one hit batsman. He also struck out five.
“I was throwing mainly a slurve, which was working a lot. It had batters ducking out,” Patel said. “I backed it up with four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and I also had a slider which was going well with two strikes. I didn’t have much need for a curve or change today.”
Schaffer, a 6-foot rising senior at Vestal (N.Y.) High, pitched brilliantly through four innings, as he built a no-hitter with two walks and six strikeouts.
“The other guy came out cooking. He was throwing hard,” Saints coach Sean Cruz said of Schaffer. “But we were patient and got to him late in the game. Krisha stayed in the strike zone and was throwing harder than I’ve seen him all year. He was hitting his spots and really doing everything he set out to do.”
Danny Internoscia, the first NJ Saint to get a hit off Raleigh pitcher Cam Schaffer, dives back to first.
After struggling for a single base hit through four innings, the Saints finally figured out Schaffer in the fifth. Danny Internoscia led off with a single to center, but not before Raleigh Baseball center fielder Cooper Klinger dove headlong for a sensational catch but dropped the ball as he hit the turf.
Lorenzo Fuscoletti followed Internoscia with a single to left, and Park executed a perfect sac bunt to move both runners into scoring position. Reed then singled to left to score Internoscia and give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
“Krish is a great pitcher, a great player and a great guy,” said Park, a rising junior at Westfield. “In the dugout I told the guys, ‘Krish is doing his job, now we gotta do ours.’ That was a little before the bunt. I was fine with sacrificing the at bat for the team. It wasn’t the best bunt but it did the job. Once we got our first run, then we were rolling and Krish just kept dominating.”
Unlikely as it may have seemed earlier, the Saints did, indeed, get their offense rolling against Schaffer.
In the bottom of the sixth and full of confidence after scratching out a 1-0 lead, the Saints rallied for four runs, a surge highlighted by a two-run single from Matthew Bober, a rising junior at Ridge.
Mike Belistri and Patel led off by stroking back-to-back singles, Tommy Zotollo laid down a carbon copy of Park’s bunt to move them to second and third, and leadoff hitter Bober swatted a single to left to score both for a 3-0 lead.
Ben McCain singled, Joe Kozak pushed home another run with a sacrifice fly, and Internoscia cranked an RBI double to finish off the folks from Endwell, N.Y.
“I always tell the guys, stay patient, stay focused,” Cruz said. “If we focus on our approach and do the things we’re supposed to do, the hits will come.”
Patel said he never lost faith that his team would eventually back him with some offensive production, even after battling Schaffer through four scoreless innings.
“Ever since I was young, my dad always told me if no one’s hitting you have to do it on the pitching end, and they’ll find hits some way,” Patel said.
“The best thing about Krish today was he kept his composure,” Cruz said. “Even with a couple batters he went 3-0, he walked a couple guys, but then he went back to his mechanics, back to his fundamentals, and found his feel again.”
Schaffer’s final line score was five earned runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
The Raleigh Baseball Institute program, founded by coach Matt Raleigh, is based in Endwell, N.Y., just minutes west of Binghamton.
Endwell is best known for producing the 2016 Little League World Series champion. The Maine-Endwell Little League team, which included Raleigh’s elder son Brody, defeated Seoul, Korea, that year in the championship game.
In the game before the loss to the Saints, Raleigh defeated Knights Empire, 2-1. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Maguire Lashier singled, and Peyton Farrell tripled to plate Lashier with the tying run and later scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Raleigh will finish pool play against EABO Riverdawgs 17U on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and against the Centercourt Makos on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
The Saints split their Monday doubleheader, as they followed their victory over Raleigh Baseball with a tough 2-1 loss to the Centercourt Makos. The Saints will conclude pool play with a Tuesday game against Knights Empire at 2:15 p.m., and a Wednesday tilt against EABO Riverdawgs 17U at 6:30 p.m.