Paxos, Piechowski pitch Avalanche past Expos in Spring Fever

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 19, 2024

Drew Piechowski hammers an RBI triple in the fourth inning for the Avalanche.

By Rich Bevensee

Evan Paxos was so adept at slipping in and out of jams for four innings, it would come as no surprise if teammate Drew Piechowski slid next to him on the dugout bench and asked Paxos to share some pitching secrets.

Piechowski found himself in a pretty tight spot in the sixth and final inning and – Paxos style – navigated his way out of trouble. 

The Houdini act both young hurlers pulled off on Saturday afternoon enabled the 14U Audubon Baseball Association Avalanche to sneak away with a 5-4 triumph over the Locked In Baseball Expos in a Spring Fever pool play game at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

What Paxos managed to pull off – strand seven runners across four innings and keep his team within striking distance of the Expos – set the bar pretty high for Piechowski.

Paxos’ finest moment came in the top of the third inning when the Expos loaded the bases with a single and two walks and sought to pad their 2-1 lead, only to slink away empty when Paxos retired the side with a pair of strikeouts. 

“I try to calm down and throw strikes, but it’s not easy,” Paxos said. “I just take a deep breath, throw the pitch and it’s usually a strike.”

“I always rely on that kid because he always keeps a level head,” Avalanche coach Evan McCutcheon said. “I know when he gets in a jam he’ll usually get out of it, and I love that about him.”

Fast forward to the top of the sixth, when the Avalanche owned a 5-3 lead after scoring three unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth – a rally keyed by a Piechowski triple – and one more in the fifth on a Matt Brogley RBI single. 

Piechowski entered the sixth in relief of his twin brother, Matt, with two men on and one out, and the first batter he faced, Pat Keown, singled to right to bring the Expos within a run. 

Perhaps Piechowski channeled Paxos in that spot, because he retired the next two batters with a strikeout and a comebacker to end the inning. 

“My thinking was to take deep breaths and throw strikes,” Piechowski said.

Remind you of anyone?

The Expos took the field with less than three minutes left on the game clock and with hopes that, with a 1-2-3 inning, they could squeeze in another at bat. Those hopes were pretty much dashed when Ian Basillo led off the Avalanche half of the sixth with a double down the right field line. 

“We’ve been slowly improving, and hitting has been the biggest improvement,” Piechiowski said. “This is a good win for us. The bats got hot at the right time.”

The Expos jumped on top first with a two-run first inning. Owen Young crushed an RBI triple and Gus Grove followed with an RBI single. 

The Avalanche countered with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Justin Martone scored on an infield error on a Brogley grounder. 

The score remained 2-1 until the top of the fourth when the Expos added some insurance, as Joseph Kealy scored on a balk. 

The bottom of the fourth was the Expos’ undoing. Jake Caulfield was pitching very well, having allowed just the one run on two hits entering the fourth. 

With two out and Basillo on second, the Expos committed an infield throwing error on a routine grounder, allowing Basillo to score and continuing the inning. Drew Piechowski made the Expos pay with a booming and game-tying triple to right center.

“I was just trying to mash the ball and hit it far somewhere,” Piechowski said.

Another infield throwing error permitted Piechowski to score, giving the Avalanche a 4-3 lead. 

“Our thing is always, be aggressive,” McCutcheon said. “I hate when guys go down looking. Put the ball in play and good things will happen.”

For the Avalanche, Paxos – relying on his curveball, slider and fastball – went five innings and surrendered three runs on four hits and six walks with four strikeouts. Matt Piechowski pitched 1⅓ innings and gave up a run on one hit, walked one and struck out two. Drew Piechowski faced the final three batters of the game.

For the Expos, Caulfield yielded five runs – one earned – on four hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Ryan Brady pitched the sixth inning and gave up a hit and a walk before the time clock expired.

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