By Sean Reilly
Connor Schott had quite a day on Sunday at Diamond Nation, and it helped his FB Braves 10U team capture a championship.
Schott pitched a perfect game in the opening pool play win and went 7-for-8 at the plate during the three-game day as the Braves captured the championship of the 10U Battle At The Turf in Flemington.
After defeating the East Coast Sandhogs, 18-0, and Twin Town Warriors, 14-0, in its pool games, the Fairfield-based Braves faced the Bridgewater Panthers 10U in the late-afternoon championship.
The Panthers, who were also unbeaten in two pool games, scored twice in the top of the first inning, after singles by Noah Komline and Matt Schmeider, followed by a two-run base hit from Andrew Nolfo.
But the Braves had no problem reacting to their first bit of adversity. They struck for seven runs in the bottom of the inning and added six more in the second to roll to a 13-2, four-inning victory.
Schott, the No. 2 hitter in the lineup, was a catalyst in both innings.
After Harry Velonas led off the bottom of the first with a double, Schott followed with an RBI single to center field. He then scored when Madden Castillo reached on an error.
In the second inning, Schott’s one-out single launched the other big uprising, and he scored when Castillo again reached on a one-out error, this time for an 8-2 lead.
Given his sensational all-around day, which earned him the tournament’s MVP award, he was asked afterward what he enjoys more, pitching or hitting.
“It’s a tie,” Schott said. “I like pitching and striking out batters but I also like getting hits, too.”
A key for the Braves was putting the ball in play, and forcing the Panthers to make plays.
“They came out swinging the entire day,” said Braves coach A.J. Flores. “They’re very aggressive, they’re swinging at hitters’ pitches, which is what you want to see. They weren’t chasing anything low or anything high. They just had an aggressive approach.”
Nor were the Braves bothered by the early deficit against the Panthers.
“That’s one of the best things with this group,” Flores said. “No matter what the score is, I’ve seen them down big and come back. It could be a 1-0 game, a 10-0 game, you never know and they never give up on anything. It’s cool to see how they bond together, especially having some new kids on the team. They’re already coming together for our first tournament of the spring.”
After Castillo reached on the first-inning error that scored Schott with the tying run, Brandon Cross also got aboard on an error that scored two for a 4-2 lead. Johnny Batista then hit a grounds rule double to left field that sent Cross to third. The next batter was Montez Betances, who walked to load the bases for Nix Cordovano.
Cordovano followed with a bases-clearing double to center field for a 7-2 score.
In the second inning, after his single, Schott beat out a play at second base as Pavie Radojicic was safe on a ground ball to shortstop. Castillo then reached again on an error to score Schott.
A wild pitch scored two more runs with Tyler Gottlieb at the plate. He then drew a base on balls, and scored when Cross doubled. The final two runs came when Batista tripled to right center and scored on an error during the relay.
Braves pitcher Rehan Rawal did the rest, allowing one hit the remainder of the game to close out the victory. After the Panthers got hits from four of their first five batters in the first inning, Rawal retired nine straight and 11 of the last 12.
Schott made his only out of the weekend in his final at-bat, and even then, he almost reached on a ball that landed foul.
“This was fun,” he said. “It was amazing. We won by a lot each time and I felt good at the plate.”