Matt Piechowski needs air after inside-the-park grand slam home run for ABA Avalanche.
By Rich Bevensee
Matt Piechowski hit his first home run on a 90-foot diamond, and he had to earn every step of it.
Barely a month into his first season on a regulation field, Piechowski didn’t have enough juice behind his swing to put the ball over the fence, so he gapped one and had to leg it out around the bases.
Speed quickly turned into fatigue as Piechowski chugged home with an inside-the-park grand slam home run. His blast provided the insurance runs necessary in the ABA Avalanche’s 7-3 pool play victory over the CK Cardinals in the 13U Mother’s Day Classic on Saturday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“It felt great, but I was so tired,” Piechowski said. “I had all barrel on that one – it just pops off the bat and it goes. I felt like I had the speed to make it, but rounding all the bases is very tiring.”
Piechowski’s slam supported a terrific outing on the mound by Evan Paxos, who allowed three runs on six hits and three walks over six innings. Paxos allowed just one run through five frames before tiring in the sixth.
“I was throwing 80 percent fastballs and the rest curveballs with a few changeups,” Paxos said of his fourth outing of the season, which also happened to be his Diamond Nation debut. “I never get nervous. You just have to play.”
“Evan’s been solid for us all year,” said Avalanche coach Greg Severance, whose club is based in baseball-rich Audubon, N.J. “He did what he was supposed to do for us – he threw strikes. You could tell he was starting to get a little tired at the end – he was up around 80 pitches – but he bore down and got out of the inning. I’m proud of him.”
The Avalanche led 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, and Jed Owens led off by notching his third single of the game. Ian Basilio walked and Jake Glenn singled to load the bases before Piechowski drilled a pitch into the right center gap and cleared the bases with his grand slam.
The Avalanche would need those runs because the Cardinals, based in Marlboro, N.J., staged a late rally against a tiring Paxos.
Dominic Zolla and Shane Panitch walked with two out in the top of the sixth before Aaron Rodriguez blooped a single into shallow right to drive in a run. Ryan Desmond followed with a run-scoring, grounds rule double to left.
The Avalanche 13U squad split their Saturday evening doubleheader when they bowed to Bucks County Generals 13U Red, 3-0. The Avalanche finished pool play by facing the Toms River Black Sox on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
“This is a nice facility with high-caliber teams, and I think we played pretty good,” Severance said after beating the Cardinals. “We held our own. We played mistake free for the most part and that’s a big part of winning.”
The Avalanche leaped to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Glenn lofted a sacrifice fly and Drew Piechowski, Matt’s identical twin brother, cracked a two-run double to left-center.
Give credit to Cardinals pitchers Rodriguez and Ryan Takacs, who held the Avalanche quiet after that first-inning dustup by combining for three shutout innings with just two hits. That is, until Matt Piechowski’s race around the bases in the fifth.
For the Cardinals, Desmond doubled twice and Josiah Porter went 2-for-3. Rodriguez pitched two innings and allowed three runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Takacs pitched four innings in relief and yielded four runs on four hits and two walks.
The CK Cardinals are named after Craig Koppelman, who owns and operates CK’s Baseball Training Facility in Morganville, N.J. The Cardinals went 0-2 on Saturday after bowing to the Avalanche and the Toms River Black Sox, 2-1. They were to face the Bucks County Generals on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.