Brenner Pourghassem crosses the plate after his inside the park, 2-run HR gave A’s Nation the lead.
By Rich Bevensee
After fighting through a pair of tense, one-run games on a sweltering afternoon, it’s fair to suggest that the A’s Nation 13U ballclub could not have faced a more difficult first day on a 60-90 field.
Fortunately, the excitement of the new challenge and the resilience of the group prevailed.
The A’s absorbed a one-run loss in their regulation field debut, but they rebounded thanks to their pint-sized dynamo, Brenner Pourghassem, who pitched four terrific innings and ripped a game-winning, inside-the-park, two-run home run to propel his team to a 4-3 victory over Nate Roe Baseball Academy Black in the 13U Labor Day Blast on Saturday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Can’t say enough about him,” A’s coach Dan Lesperance said of Pourghassem. “He’s a spark plug out there for us. Gave us four great innings and got an inside the park homer with some wheels around the bases.”
After spending the entire summer on a 50-70 field, the A’s played on a regulation field for the first time Saturday morning, and lost 4-3 in the late innings to the Richmond County Baseball Club Marucci 13U Americans.
So A’s Nation was facing a double-decker challenge of sorts. The team was adjusting to a bigger field while at the same time playing in tight ball games where the smallest error could cost them.
The double-sided challenge didn’t seem to faze the young players.
“If it’s a close game it means you didn’t play badly,” said Pourghassem, whose two-out, two-run homer erased a 3-2 A’s deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning. “If you mercy them you don’t get to play as much, and if it’s a close game it means you’re playing a good team, and the better the team, the better you’ll get.”
Austin Wright’s bat was equal to the task of hitting on a bigger field. He belted an RBI triple into the left field corner to get his team on the board in the first inning.
“The throws are a little farther, the bat is a little heavier, but it’s good,” said Wright, who went 2-for-3. “The bigger field is kind of cool. I enjoyed the challenge.”
Lesperance, whose son Noah pitched two innings of scoreless relief to nail down the victory, said he was pleased with what he saw from his team away from the friendly confines of 50-70 diamonds.
“It’s a lot of lessons learned,” Lesperance said. “It’s a big transition to the bigger field for these guys. We’re just trying to keep them focused and make sure they take everything one at bat, one play at a time. The resiliency that these guys showed, to stay tough, that’s something they learned today, to execute when the time comes.”
Trailing NRBC 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the A’s Eric Feliciano rapped a leadoff single but he was erased with a solid double play turned by strong-armed shortstop Dom Long.
Jack Loughlin walked with two out to bring up Pourghassem, the A’s No. 12 batter who observed the NRBA outfielders playing extremely shallow. His line drive through the right side skipped by the outfielders to the fence in right center, and because they had so much ground to cover, Pourghassem scored standing up.
“When I was going through first, I saw it rolling to the fence,” said Pourghassem, who hit 15 homers on 50-70 fields this summer. “I was trying to get to third and I looked at my third base coach and he was waving me home. I thought I could make it.”
NRBA’s Luca Aceto knocked a two-out single in the top of the sixth to push Chris Smith to second base with the potential tying run. But Smith was stranded there when Noah Lesperance got a strikeout to end the threat.
NRBA reliever Pat Schwarz denied the A’s a chance to pad their lead in the sixth. After Wright singled and Michael Lingrell walked to open the inning, Schwarz induced two popups and a fly out to douse the potential rally.
That favor was quickly returned by Lesperance, who closed out his second scoreless inning with a pair of strikeouts.
“I think the close games are a good thing because we have to keep our heads up and keep fighting,” Wright said. “If we’re up one, we’re only a couple hits away from it being a tie game, so we gotta keep fighting and putting balls in play.”
NRBA opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, as Brian Cilento walked and eventually scored on a balk, and Kylan Patel reached on a two-out, infield error and also scored on a balk.
The A’s knotted the score in the bottom of the first. Nick Vitiello slapped a single to left and Wright chased him home with a line drive into the right field corner for a stand-up triple. Lingrell plated Wright with a groundout to the right side.
In the top of the fourth, NRBA grabbed a 3-2 lead when Henry Bisignano singled, moved to second on an Aceto sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Jared Finkelstein’s single to left.
After Loughlin had difficulty on the mound in the first inning, Pourghassem came on in relief and promptly held NRBA to one run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts in the next 4⅓ innings.
Lesperance pitched the final two innings and surrendered one hit and one walk and struck out three.
Bisignano pitched the first four innings for NRBA and yielded two runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Schwarz allowed two runs in two innings on three hits and three walks.
A’s Nation continues pool play with a 12:15 p.m. Sunday game against the RCBC Marucci Nationals, and closes against Avengers Baseball 13 Rising on Monday at 11 a.m.
NRBA also played back-to-back 4-3 ball games on Saturday, and like the A’s, split those games. It edged Rams Baseball Club 13U. NRBA continues pool play by facing FS Prime Elite on Sunday at 8:30 p.m., and the RCBC Marucci Nationals on Monday at 11 a.m.