Phillips fires unexpected gem for LVBA 16U National

By DN WRITING STAFF | September 3, 2023

Clutch Baseball catcher Sincere Moore fires throw to second base.

By Sean Reilly 

John Phillips was the starting center fielder for Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy 16U National on Friday evening at Diamond Nation. 

One batter into the bottom of the first inning, he was called on to pitch. 

The move wasn’t caused by an emergency. Instead, the LVBA coaching staff realized the starter didn’t have good command after a four-pitch leadoff walk. They also noticed similar issues during the pregame bullpen. 

Phillips proved more than ready. He allowed only one hit the rest of the way as LVBA 16U National opened its fall campaign with a 10-0, five-inning victory over Clutch Baseball from South Jersey at the 16U Labor Day Blast in Flemington.

Phillips finished with five strikeouts and no walks, allowing only a leadoff bloop single over third base by Aiden Taylor in the third inning. 

The lefthander’s strategy against Team Clutch, with players from mostly Millville and Vineland, was to keep things simple.

Kaden Hawk scores on single by Brader Butz which gave LVBA 16U National a 4-0 lead.

“I moved from center to pitcher with no warm ups,” he said. “I just had to do my job. I had to be aggressive, throw strikes and let the defense make plays. I was throwing straight fastballs. I was throwing them outside. They were early on everything so I just hit them off the end and got ground balls.” 

Phillips was also the leadoff batter for LVBA National, and he factored into a two-run top of the first inning after he was hit by a pitch. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored when No. 2 batter Tyler Sanders tripled to left-center field. Sanders scored later in the inning when Evan Carter walked with the bases loaded.

Walks and hit batters were a recurring theme for LVBA National, which totaled four hits in the game, but had 11 batters reach on walks and three more on hit-by-pitches.

A five-run third inning extended the LVBA lead to 7-0. 

That frame started with walks to Sanders and Kayden Hawk, and they scored on a two-run single by Brader Butz. Evan Carter hit an RBI triple with two out. Nick Haros was then hit by a pitch and Ryan Rooney walked on a full count to load the bases. 

Jackson Labbadia walked on a full count to score a run, and Logan Deiter was hit by a pitch to bring in the final run of the inning. 

LVBA scored its remaining runs in the fifth. After a single by Gio Ferraro, walks to Carter and Haros loaded the bases. Rooney drew his third walk in as many trips to make it an 8-0 game. Labbadia then reached on an error to score the other two runs.

Phillips, meanwhile, retired the final eight batters after the single by Taylor.

LVBA 16U National first baseman Ben Weninger handles throw from third baseman Evan Carter.

Opening with a win puts LVBA on solid ground in the tournament standings. The Pennsylvania team continued with a Saturday game against PPH Mafia White and two more contests on Sunday.

The top four teams in the 10-team tournament advance to the playoffs on Monday. Since the first tie breaking criteria is runs allowed, LVBA could not have asked for a better start from a result standpoint, especially after a two-week break leading into the tournament. 

“It was good to have a break,” Phillips said. “Now it’s back to baseball. We played pretty good overall. There are a couple of adjustments to make offensively, but this was a good way to start it off.”

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