Scanzano’s Gabor walks it off in 13U World Series

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 11, 2023

Combat shortstop Landon Burkhardt tags out Bell Ringers’ Jack Brown in fourth inning rundown.

By Rich Bevensee

It may wear on the nerves of their coaches – and their hairlines as well – but the young men who play for Scanzano Combat National proved yet again they have a knack for producing late-game comebacks.

On Monday afternoon, Combat frittered away a two-run lead, only to come back in its final at bat to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat for the second time in three days.

Luke Gabor’s bases-loaded smash down the left field line allowed Ryan Bechtel to score the winning run and Combat earned a 7-6 walk-off win over Bell Ringers Black in 13U pool play of the Youth World Series at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“I was a little nervous, a little excited, but once he (Bechtel) scored I was really happy,” said Gabor, who acknowledged the at bat was his first in a game-winning situation. “I was thinking I need to get a hit or get on base and I can’t let my team down. I like it down and outside, that was the pitch I wanted to get, but anything to get the runner home.”

The dramatic victory concluded Combat’s four-game split in the World Series. Combat, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., began with a 4-3 victory over Pride of the Diamond, a win in which Combat led 3-0, Pride came back to tie, and Combat scored the winning run in its final at bat.

“It’s our perseverance and our confidence,” said Combat’s Gavin Bolt, who provided a key two-run single in the fourth inning to give his team a 3-2 lead against the Bell Ringers. “Through the last innings, once we get rolling we don’t stop.”

“These kids love being in the box. They love being in that moment,” Combat coach Jeff Schick said. “Our guys are pretty loose, honestly. I have a lot of confidence in these guys and they have a lot of confidence in themselves.”

Combat would not have been in a come-from-behind situation if not for the clutch hitting of its opponent. Trailing 4-2 in the top of the seventh and down to their final three outs, the Bell Ringers scored four runs on two hits, two walks and two errors to take a 6-4 lead. 

Chris Hadjuk drilled a two-run single down the left field line to tie the game. Quinn Gallagher put the Bell Ringers in front with a two-out RBI single and added an insurance run when he scored on an infield throwing error. 

In the bottom of the seventh, Combat loaded the bases with no out after singles by Sam Willard and Aidan Maldonado sandwiched a walk by Bolt. Combat drew within a run when Bechtel drew a walk. Bolt then raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game.

After Christian Moles walked to reload the bases, Gabor got his first hit of the game with a line drive which hugged the line as Bechtel scored to end the game.

Bell Ringers’ Chris Hadjuk races to third after hitting a two-run double in the seventh inning.

“Honestly, after the top of the seventh we were excited to hit again,” Bolt said. “That’s what it comes down to. We had the confidence and put it out there.”

“It’s definitely our confidence,” Gabor said. “No one ever puts their head down, and it’s always team first.”

Oddly enough, the game began as a textbook production on how to play defense, as Bell Ringers starter Jack Brown and Combat starter Jax Singleton traded zeroes for three innings. The left side of both infields played particularly well in scooping up grounders and making strong throws.

Bell Ringers catcher Julia Lucey turned in the best throw of the game in the bottom of the third. A Brown curveball was swung at and missed for strike three, and the ball bounded to the backstop. Lucey retrieved the ball at the netting and threw a frozen rope to first base to get the out.

In the top of the fourth, Brown began the scoring by belting an RBI triple to the right field wall, scoring Andrew Sears. The next batter, Luke Albarano, grounded to third and Brown got hung up between third and home and was tagged out after a lengthy rundown that allowed Albarano to race to third. Albarano scored two pitches later on a passed ball to give Bell Ringers a 2-0 lead.

Combat bounced back in the bottom of the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. No. 12 hitter Jake Leavey scored on an error on a two-out, bases-loaded grounder by Sam Willard. And Bolt made the Bell Ringers pay for the error with a two-run single through the middle.

Combat added what seemed at the time to be an important insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Ben Alexander looped a single into right, scoring Leavey who reached on a fielder’s choice.

Brown pitched very well for the Bell Ringers in a losing effort, allowing three runs (none earned) on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 3⅔ innings.

The Bell Ringers finished pool play 1-3, with their lone victory an 11-1 decision over EEP Bandits 13U Gray.

Singleton was equally as stingy on the mound for Combat, permitting two runs on four hits and one walk with two strikeouts in four innings.

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