Aiden Hershberger lined an RBI double for the Cornwall Dragons.
By Rich Bevensee
With the game inching toward the one-hour, 50-minute time limit and his team leading by a run, Richie Roohan’s goal was to help eat up some of that clock with a productive at bat.
Roohan’s at bat was productive all right, but the speed he showcased on the bases didn’t help very much with eating the clock.
Roohan roped a drive into the right center gap which he turned into an inside-the-park, two-run home run and gave the Cornwall Dragons the insurance runs they needed in an 8-5 victory over Freedom Baseball in the
13U Summer Finale on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“That was exciting,” said Roohan, a rising freshman at Cornwall High who notched his first homer of the summer. “I was going around third and I was gassed. I didn’t think I’d make it home. When I rounded first and saw the ball roll to the fence, I didn’t know I hit it that far or that hard, and I thought I might have a chance for a home run. But I was very surprised that I didn’t get stopped at third. That was just super exciting.”
The win gave the Dragons a Friday doubleheader sweep. Earlier, Cornwall knocked off N.Y. Dynasty 11-4.
The Dragons wrap up pool play by facing Northeast Pride 13U Scout on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Pride closed its Friday twinbill by blitzing Dynasty 32-0. The five-team playoffs begin Sunday at 2:15 p.m.
Not only were the Dragons forced to play another inning because there was still one minute remaining on the game clock, they also had to sweat out the victory because Freedom opened the inning by loading the bases with three walks, thereby placing the tying run on first base with none out.
Dragons reliever Danny Twomey erased any potential damage by first getting a strikeout, then inducing a line drive which turned into a game-ending double play.
“They didn’t let the game get ahead of them,” Dragons coach Matt Hannon said. “They stayed with it, just played their game, base to base, and they strung some hits together, which is nice.
“It’s been an up-and-down year, with a lot of big wins partnered with some terrible losses, where they lose it and can’t get it back. It was nice to see them stick two games like that back to back.”
Trailing 6-5 in the top of the fifth, Freedom threatened to tie the game by getting runners on second and third with two out. Twomey escaped that jam, too, with a strikeout looking.
The Dragons responded to that scare with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, courtesy of Roohan and a bit of luck as well. Casey Catalanotto lofted a two-out infield pop up that somehow fell inside the third base line between home and the mound.
Roohan, the next batter, made Freedom pay for that mishap by turning on a low inside pitch, ripping it into the right center gap, whizzing around the bases and ultimately scoring with plenty of time to spare. Literally.
“He’s just been locked in, tearing the cover off the ball, and you saw that power with that gapper,” Hannon said. “These kids are close to leaving the yard, which is nice.”
“I was going in there knowing we needed to get time off the clock so we wouldn’t have to play the next inning,” Roohan said. “So I was going to wait till I got a strike, then after I get a strike, look for a pitch to drive. I got one low and inside and I turned on it.”
Twomey’s relief effort consisted of two scoreless innings on no hits and six walks and three strikeouts.
Twomey took over for Dragons starter Gavin Blake, who pitched four innings and yielded five runs on six hits and one walk with two strikeouts.
“I feel like I did pretty good. I gave up some good hits but I thought I did okay overall,” Blake said. “I was throwing strikes most of the time and I didn’t walk too many batters. For our team, it really comes down to pitching. If we have good pitching, normally we do a good job.”
Twomey not only wiggled out of late-inning jams twice, he scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the third in a game which saw the lead change hands three times.
With the Dragons trailing 4-3 in the third, Roohan singled and Twomey walked, and they both scored with one out – Roohan on a passed ball and Twomey on a wild pitch for a 5-4 Dragons lead.
Freedom took its second and final lead at 5-4 in the top of the third when Presley Moss knocked in a run with a fielder’s choice grounder and Brandon Criollo scorched a line drive down the left field line for a two-run double.
Freedom opened the game by grabbing a 2-0 lead when leadoff man Will Donaghy singled, Mason Ruocco drove him in with a double, and Moss chased Ruocco home with a singled to center.
Moss, the Freedom first baseman, opened the bottom of the first with an over-the-shoulder catch of a pop-up down the right field line. The Dragons responded with four runs to take the lead. Catalanotto and Twomey both walked and scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 2-2.
Patrick Sherry lofted an infield hit behind the mound to knock in another run, and Aiden Hershberger added an RBI double to center for a 4-2 lead.
Freedom made sure the Dragons didn’t immediately add to their lead with an exceptional double play in the bottom of the second. With runners on second and third and no out, Mason Ruocco came on in relief for Freedom. He got a strikeout, then surrendered a walk to load the bases.
Ruocco induced the next batter to hit a chopper which third baseman Matt Trabulsi fielded and threw home for the second out, and Freedom catcher Criollo fired to first for the inning-ending twin-killing.
Freedom Baseball completed pool play with a game against N.Y. Dynasty on Saturday afternoon.