Jeremy Puello and Fausto Dominguez, homer-hitting teammates with Grand Slam Foundation.
By Rich Bevensee
Some baseball teams may believe a six-run head start is safe.
Not the boys from Grand Slam Foundation Bedford Park of the Bronx, who have performed massive comebacks several times this summer.
Turns out Bedford Park saved its best for last.
After spotting Pioneers Baseball a six-run lead in the first inning, the boys from the Bronx celebrated their final tournament of the season by roaring back with a massive 11-run rally in the second, fueled by a pair of missile-like home runs by Jeremy Puello and Fausto Dominguez.
But only after staving off a furious comeback could Grand Slam Foundation walk away with a three-inning, 15-14 victory in the 12U Summer Finale on Saturday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“It was an amazing game,” said Grand Slam coach Mariano Poll, who noted the 11-run inning was the team’s biggest of the summer. “With our kids, I know they can do that at any time, any moment. Anything can happen at any time. And we’ve done it so many times before.”
“It feels really good because we were losing and we came back with a lot of positivity,” Dominguez said. “We didn’t think we were going to win, and then we kept pushing, kept pushing, and look, we got the victory.”
Grand Slam continued its amazing run production Sunday morning with a 20-6 victory over the HBQVB Orioles, and will have one more pool play game against the Taconic Rangers at press time, 12:15 p.m. The winner of that game will likely be the top seed for the three-team playoffs.
The Whitemarsh, Pa.-based Pioneers, coming off an exceptional 5-2 week in Cooperstown, N.Y., lost 14-4 to the Taconic Rangers on Sunday morning and will face the HBQVB Orioles to wrap up pool play.
Puello and Dominguez highlighted Grand Slam’s most fruitful rally of the season with back-to-back line drive home runs which pushed their team into the lead for good in that fateful second inning. All told, Grand Slam sent an eye-popping 17 batters to the plate and manufactured 11 runs on six hits and eight walks in the frame.
“It felt good because it was always positive in the dugout,” Puello said through his interpreter teammate Enriquez Perez. “It was positive because we kept coming back and we started getting runs, runs, runs, and we came all the way back.”
Combined, Puello and Dominguez, the team’s No. 3 and 4 hitters, combined to go 4-for-4 with five RBI.
“My 3-4-5 batters are amazing players and with them I know we can do it,” Poll said. “They always have the green light. I tell them to look for one pitch and they have the green light because I know I can depend on them.”
Trailing 7-4 heading into the bottom of the second inning, Grand Slam’s Luis Henriques and Perez led off with consecutive walks against Pioneers starter Luca Taormina. Nolan McCafferty came in to relieve, and Bedford Park’s Angel Garcia began the fireworks with an RBI single. Three batters later Ismael Ramirez stroked a two-run, grounds rule double to left center to bring Grand Slam to within a run at 8-7.
Then came the bombs.
Puello followed Ramirez with a line-drive, three-run home run over the center field fence. Dominguez, the next batter, sent the Grand Slam dugout into a frenzy by ripping a second straight line drive homer, this one to left center for an 11-7 lead.
“It was a high inside pitch, and it felt good because it was a home run,” Puello said through Perez. “When I saw it I knew it was a home run, because I saw that it was a line drive higher than the fence.”
Dominguez was less confident after making contact.
“In my mind I didn’t think it was a home run, and then I saw it went out and I was really happy,” Dominguez said. “That was for my team. It was for my family.”
William Martinez continued the rally with an RBI single, Joseph Calderon and Martinez scored on wild pitches, and Erial Veras capped the rally with a bases-loaded walk for a 15-7 Grand Slam lead.
“It felt like there was a lot of energy in the dugout, a lot of positivity,” Dominguez said. “I thought we could come back, and we did come back. That’s my team.”
The Pioneers refused to be beaten into submission. Having hit 32 homers during their tournament week in Cooperstown, the Pioneers were fully confident they could be equally as potent given a chance.
It turned out that the Pioneers relied on patience more than firepower to make their comeback, scoring seven runs on two hits, two walks and two hit batsmen.
Dean Rider walked to force a run home, Peter Turchi Jr. drove in a run with an infield single, and the big blast of the inning came from McCafferty who rocked a three-run double to left center, bringing the Pioneers to within 15-12.
McCafferty scored on a throwing error and No. 12 batter Kyle Tenthoff laced an RBI single, and suddenly the Pioneers trailed by a run at 15-14.
With Tenthoff standing on second base representing the tying run – and with no time left on the one-hour, 50-minute game clock – Poll brought in his closer, the hard-throwing Puello, to close the deal. Puello responded with a four-pitch strikeout and the Grand Slam dugout exploded once more.
For the Pioneers, Brody Stump stroked a three-run home run well over the right-center field fence, Turchi was 2-for-2 with two RBI, Luke West tripled and Taormina had an RBI single.