PPH Mafia Red 16U players talk it over during a break in the action yesterday.
By Mike Olshin
There are two ways to handle adversity in this game.
You can run from it. Or you can punch back.
PPH Mafia Red 16U chose to punch back. Hard.
The Central Jersey squad dropped a game it probably shouldn’t have to open play early Saturday morning in the Halloween Mash at Diamond Nation. A two-out seventh inning misplay of a fly ball and a bloop single turned a 5-3 lead into a 6-5 walkoff defeat.
That left precious little time to recover mentally before Game 2. Which was just fine for everyone.
“It was the wake-up call we needed,” said PPH’s slugging infielder Will Bethea, as the junior stalwart went 2-for-2 including a double off the fence as PPH rebounded with a 12-3 win over the Powerballers on Saturday afternoon.
PPH sat at 1-1 entering championship Sunday and essentially faced three do-or-die games if it hopes to emerge victorious on the final day of the Diamond Nation 2023 tournament season.
The first one should be a good one with Woodbridge High strikeout master Ryan Leach squaring off against a Prime Time Aces squad that looked pretty stellar on Day 1.
But PPH can bring it too. Leach played first base and got it done at the plate in this one as the highly touted Class of 2025 talent drove in a run with a single in the first inning and then really opened some breathing room with a three-run double in the second. John Smith reached base three times and scored three runs.
That ended up being enough offense for PPH pitcher Mike Castagna who went all five frames in the shortened contest and gave head coach Dan Intili a chance to conserve arms for what could be a Sunday tripleheader.
The game got out of hand as PPH scored six times in the third, highlighted by a pair of hits from two of the team’s featured performers. Franklin High junior Mike Schiermeyer cranked a bases-clearing triple to left and the freakish athlete electrified with his speed going from home to third.
Michael Schiermeyer smokes a three-run triple for PPH Mafia
Schiermeyer is going to be one to watch in the Skyland Conference this year at a school that has turned out some big-time talent in recent years, including absolute dudes like Rutgers shortstop Josh Kuroda-Grauer, who may end up a Day 1 pick in next July’s MLB Draft, or someone like last year’s star Peyton Bonds, now at Campbell University.
“Really our goal for next year (at Franklin) is consistency,” said Schiermeyer, an excellent student drawing attention from mid-major and academic D1s. “We have had some great games, then we lose to the same team the next time out.”
Right after Schiermeyer in the PPH lineup is “Bombs” Bethea, who justified his nickname by narrowly missing a home run. Bethea is another one drawing notice from some mid-major D1s and showed why with five hits over two games yesterday. He continues to fill out and continues to swing the bat with aggression. He hopes to make his presence felt in the Greater Middlesex Conference this year after transferring to Saint Thomas Aquinas.