Cardinals’ Michael Rodrigues rips a shot to right field to bring home the winning run on Friday.
By Sean Reilly
Michael Ramirez wasn’t sure if he’d get to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning for the North Jersey Cardinals Red against the Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects at the 15U Father’s Day Classic on Friday at Diamond Nation.
If he did, the outcome would likely hinge on his at-bat. And if that was the case, the first baseman was more than ready.
Sure enough, his team scored the tying run with two out, which sent him to the plate with the go-ahead run on second base. He was also more than likely going to be the last batter of the game, since the game clock was approaching zero, although not there yet.
“I saw the pitcher the inning before, so I was hoping for a fastball,” he said. “I was also being aware just in case he threw a breaking ball. I was staying calm.”
Not only did he make contact, he hit a fly ball to right field, where the outfielder couldn’t line up the ball against a blinding late-day sun. It fell for a hit that scored Alex Adornato from second base, giving the Cardinals a wild 12-11 victory in a tournament opener in Flemington.
“The fastball was looking good to hit,” Ramirez said. “I was sitting on it and waiting for the right pitch.”
Since he had been looking into the sun from his defensive spot at first base, he knew how tough it was for the outfielder.
“I didn’t have any fly balls hit to me, but I just looked up a little bit and the sun was blinding me,” Ramirez said. “Even with sunglasses on, it was horrible.”
Both teams scored in every inning in the game, except for the Cardinals in the bottom of the first. The Cyclones, meanwhile, scored twice in the first two innings to open a 4-0 lead. James Mascola had an RBI single in the first and Alex Hart singled in a run in the second for the Cyclones.
The Cardinals, playing their first game of the summer season, then sent 15 batters to the plate while scoring nine runs in the bottom of the second. The uprising included a two-run single by Dylan Gardner, a RBI hit by Nick Filliponi and two-run single by Jason Habedank.
The Cyclones got two runs back in the top of third, with Connor Monus delivering an RBI groundout and Steven Studlack hitting a run-scoring double.
The Cardinals then scored a run on a wild pitch for a 10-6 lead in the bottom of the third.
The outcome, though, was far from decided, even though time on the 1:50 game clock was starting to wind down.
The first two Cyclones batters in the top of the fourth walked, before Kevin Pepe doubled both home. A walk, followed by a throwing error, loaded the bases before the first out was recorded. Studlack then hit a triple to tie the score, and he scored on a Jake Breuer groundout for an 11-10 lead.
The Cardinals came to bat in the bottom of the inning not only down a run, but with five minutes left on the clock. Although the full half inning would be played even if time ran out, three quick outs would send the game on to a fifth inning.
Given the pace and scoring to that point, a continuation beyond the fourth inning seemed very unlikely. Yet the first batter flew out to center field on one pitch and the next batter struck out.
Habedank then singled to left field and stole second. Adornato doubled him home on a ball hit to right center that was hard for the outfielders to see because of the bright sun.
That brought up Ramirez and his go-ahead hit followed, just as time expired to end the game with his team now ahead.
It was an eventful summer season opener for the Cardinals, who played to a 6-6 tie against Locked In Baseball Expos 15U Blue in their second game later on Friday night.
“It was sloppy, but we just have to learn from our mistakes,” Ramirez said of the first-game victory. “Now we can clear our minds and move forward.”