Josh Kroda-Grauer of Full Count Baseball homered and singled in Garden State Scout League game.
The Diamond Jacks Gold 18U was knocking on the door for four innings but it would take a string of hits in the fifth inning before it would break through and overcome Full Count Baseball last night at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Zack Repetto delivered a two-run double and Ryan Giacabello followed with a booming triple as the Diamond Jacks erased a 1-0 deficit and staked themselves to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth of the Garden State Scout League game.
“I was just trying to put the bat on the ball,” said Repetto, the Gold 18U’s No. 10 hitter last night, “especially with two strikes.”
Pinch-hitter Parker Muratore drew a leadoff walk and Kyle Insabella followed with a single inside the left field line. The speedy Muratore attempted to reach third on the hit but left fielder Jake Memoli appeared to cut him down with a nice throw. The ball, however, trickled free on the tag and not only was Muratore safe but Insabella took second on the throw. The Diamond Jacks, trailing 1-0, were suddenly in business.
Repetto quickly fell behind 0-2 and was admittedly in a defensive mode at the plate. “I got a fastball on the outer half,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize how far I hit it.” Repetto pulled a shot well into the left-center field gap, chasing both runners home to give the Gold 18U a 2-1 lead. There were still no outs as the lineup flipped to the top and Giacabello.
“It’s a different approach when you come up in the middle of a rally than when you lead off an inning or the game,” said Giacabello, 0-for-2 to that point. “You’re more aggressive early in the count, instead of working the count.”
Giacabello didn’t waste any time with the first fastball he saw. “It was a little elevated and middle away,” he said. And he smartly took it the other way, lashing a deep shot to right-center field that went for an easy triple that scored Repetto for a 3-1 lead.
A neatly pitched and tightly defended game by both teams removed the time limit from the equation, meaning the Diamond Jacks Gold 12U would have to shut down the aggressive Full Count Baseball lineup two more times. It would prove a difficult chore.
Diamond Jacks coach Brian Del Rosso used five pitchers to navigate the first five innings and was rewarded for that faith in his deep staff with a one-run-on-six-hits effort. Full Count scored the game’s first run in the top of the fourth on one big swing. Rutgers-bound Josh Kuroda-Grauer stepped in with one out and launched a blast to left field that had very little trouble clearing the fence for a home run and a 1-0 lead.
Del Rosso opted to use hard-throwing Hadyn Strycharz to close out the final two innings after his team had wrested control, albeit tenuous, in the fifth. Full Count Baseball was not very compliant as its hitters appeared more comfortable with the higher velocity.
Raiden Yost, Full Count’s leadoff hitter, opened the sixth with a looping single to left field before Kuroda-Grauer (2-for-3) followed with a single to center field. Full Count was set up nicely with its 3-4-5 hitters due up but it was Strycharz’s turn to ratchet up the adrenaline. The lefthander got a strikeout looking, a flyout to deep left-center field and another strikeout to escape the jam.
Kuroda-Grauer, a senior at Franklin High School, stepped to the fore, again, this time taking the mound to pitch a scoreless bottom of the sixth and give his team a chance in its final at bat. Matty Wright reached Kuroda for a pinch-hit infield single with one out, stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. But Kuroda struck out the next two batters to strand the potential insurance run right there.
Full Count would force Strycharz to walk a bit of a tight rope in the top of the seventh.
Jack O’Donnell singled through the middle with one out. Tyler Johnson then hit a slow bouncer to the left side that third baseman Brian Finn fielded but bobbled, allowing Johnson to reach. But Finn alertly peeked at second base where O’Donnell had taken a wide turn, anticipating a throw to first base. Finn fired to second to barely get O’Donnell for the second out as the second baseman Repetto applied the tag.
“That was heads up,” said Del Rosso. “We teach our guys to pump fake in that situation.”
Finn’s alert play would prove critical after what followed. Memoli drew a walk and Hunter Almeida singled to center field to load the bases, moving the potential tying run to second base and putting the potential winning run on first.
But Stycharz got the next batter to hit a bouncer to third base and Finn, again alert and discerning, reached for and tagged Memoli for the final out before he could reach third base.
“We pieced it together on the mound as a group,” said Del Rosso. “We filled the zone up and pitched competitively.”
Though Full Count managed 10 hits, Diamond Jacks pitchers — Andrew Rubayo, Nate Scott, Greg Carillo, Tim Pitucco, Insabella and Strycharz — stranded 11 runners, seven in scoring position. They combined to strike out 10, walk two and hit a batter.
Full Count pitching — Yost, Chris Serrano, Ishaan Patel, Andrew Fernandez, Matt Medvetz and Kuroda-Grauer — did a nice job, too, stranding seven Diamond Jacks runners while allowing eight hits. They struck out six and walked three.
NOTES: Insabella got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth when he induced a fly ball to right that right fielder Mike Motta turned into an inning-ending double play. Motta gunned down Johnson on a close play at the plate. … Pitucco pulled a bit of a Houdini routine in the fourth himself. After Kuroda-Grauer’s one-out home run, Pitucco surrendered a grounds rule double to Fernandez and walked Jonathan Rosado. But the righthander got a strikeout and groundout to get out of it. Kuroda-Grauer’s home run may have been a two-run job if not for a nice play by Finn, playing second base in the early going, on Yost’s slow roller to the right side. … The Diamond Jacks Gold 18U is 2-1-1 in Garden State Scout League play. Full Count Baseball is 2-2.