Isaac Lamson of the Ruffnecks rips his second double of the game at the Super 17 Invitational.
By Rich Bevensee
The Philadelphia Reds may have guessed they were in trouble on Monday night when the middle of the order for the New England Ruffnecks 2024s – Isaac Lamson, Nolan Bibbo and Eddie Morrissey – kept knocking the ball into the outfield gaps for extra bases and RBIs.
Or maybe it was when Lamson kept vacuuming up grounders at third base, making tough outs look routine.
Actually, the very first sign the Reds were in for a long night was when Ruffnecks pitcher Matthew deBenedictis felt he had pinpoint control of all three of his pitches during his pregame bullpen session.
That inkling parlayed into a magnificent performance in which deBenedictis threw a three-hit shutout with no walks and eight strikeouts in a 7-0 victory over the Reds in both teams’ opening pool play game in the Super 17 Invitational at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“In the bullpen from the get-go, I had a feel for all three of my pitches, so I threw all three of them for strikes,” said deBenedictis, who employed a fastball, curve and change. “It helped me get ground balls when I needed them and my defense really helped, too.”
The Ruffnecks righty, a 5-10, 175-pound rising sophomore at Phillips Academy Andover, lingered in the high 70s to low 80s with his fastball, which topped out at 83 miles per hour. Three of his strikeouts came on picture-perfect curveballs which dropped right into catcher Lucas Messer’s mitt.
“In the second inning I was continuously throwing curveballs for strikes,” deBenedictis said. “I started dropping a couple changeups in the zone as well and I was also getting ground balls, and that’s when I started to think I had a feel for my pitches.
“A couple times when there was a lefty up, I’d throw my change and it would fade away and he’d swing and miss for strike three,” deBenedictis said. “Felt great that I could throw a strike whenever I needed it.”
The Ruffnecks righty set down the Reds in order the first time through the lineup, he struck out the side in the third, and faced just three batters over the minimum. Of his 79 pitches, he threw 59 for strikes.
“Matthew had great command, and I tell you what, once he got his rhythm going after the first inning, once he found it, he felt it,” Ruffnecks coach Ted Novio said. “Today was one of those days where he couldn’t wait to get the ball back and throw the next pitch. The best thing he does is he attacks hitters. He doesn’t back down to anyone. ”
The Ruffnecks’ victory wasn’t all deBenedictis. Lamson, his Phillips Academy teammate and New England’s No. 3 hitter, displayed gap to gap power by going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI doubles – one to left-center and one to right-center field.
Bibbo, the cleanup hitter, went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and was also hit by pitches twice. Lefty hitting Morrissey flexed opposite field power by launching an RBI double which hit the left field fence on the fly. That blast got the Ruffnecks on the board, 2-0, in the top of the second inning.
Back-to-back RBI doubles by Lamson and Bibbo in the third inning fueled another two run inning for a 4-0 lead.
Lamson was the key to New England’s third two-run rally, boosting its lead to 6-0 in the fifth, when he ripped his second RBI double and later swiped home on a double steal when Bibbo broke for second base.
The Ruffnecks tacked on one more run in the sixth on a John Hegarty RBI single.
Lamson’s defense was just as hefty as the Ruffnecks’ collective offense. He handled all five chances cleanly at third base, but that doesn’t begin to describe his performance.
The Lamson Show began in the fourth inning when he cut across the infield to gobble up a slow roller and throw out Reds leadoff man Travis Church.
In the fifth he ranged deep into the hole to snag a grounder and retire Gabe Falcone. The next batter, Danny Hill, smacked a line drive which was hauled in with a perfectly timed Lamson leap to steal an extra base hit.
In the sixth Lamson threw an inning-ending dart to second base for a force out. In the seventh he scrambled to his right to scoop up a Teddy Monahan grounder which carried him into foul territory, but he anchored himself and threw a frozen rope to first for the out.
“I play a lot of third base in high school, actually the whole season, but in the summer I actually play a lot of middle infield,” said Lamson, a rising junior at Phillips. “I haven’t played third in a week or two because I’ve been rotating between second and short, but I love playing third.
“I think being naturally gifted and working with my high school coach, Kevin Graber, on my range and keeping the ball in front of me and not having to use my backhand, that’s allowed me to do well over there.”
Here’s the Ruffnecks schedule for the rest of the week: ASBA Futures Warminster on Tuesday at 10 a.m.; Diamond Jacks Gold 17U on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.; and Show New England 17U Showcase on Thursday at 8 a.m.
For the Reds, Joe Krasowski, Brady Dolder and Anthony Vera accounted for their team’s only hits. Vera pitched 5⅓ innings and allowed seven runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Falcone relieved Vera for 1⅔ scoreless innings, yielding one hit and striking out two.
The Reds’ remaining schedule at the Nation looks like this: Show New England 17U Showcase on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m.; New England Ruffnecks 2023s on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m.; Diamond Jacks Gold 17U on Thursday at 10 a.m.; and ASBA Futures Warminster on Friday at 10 a.m.