Steelsharks catcher Kam Kensicki was a driving force behind his team’s 7-0 victory on Friday night.
By Rich Bevensee
If baseball doesn’t turn out to be a career option for Kam Kensicki, there’s always the talk show business.
Kensicki, a guest catcher for the Steelsharks Baseball 15U club of Bethlehem, Pa., was in constant communication with his pitcher, his infielders, opposing hitters, the home plate umpire and anyone who would listen to a random quip while he was busy framing pitches and throwing out baserunners.
Kensicki was a big reason why teammate Rocco Sciarra was able to stay on track for five innings of no-hit baseball on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Right-handers Sciarra and Andrew Bowser combined for a six-inning no-hitter while the Steelsharks grabbed a 7-0 victory over All-Star Baseball Academy Futures White of West Chester, Pa., in pool play of ‘The Nation’s’ annual Home Run Classic powered by Victus.
“He talks a lot. A LOT,” Steelsharks coach Tom Conway said about Kensicki. “But he’s the happiest kid you’ll meet in your life, and he takes charge. He takes control of the game. He sees everything.”
“He’s a leader out here on the field, and it’s always good to have a team with a leader,” Sciarra said. “It keeps you in the game. It keeps everyone in the game.”
The Steelsharks were playing in just their second tournament of the spring. Last week they lost to Pennsylvania’s top-ranked 15U team Dom Brown Baseball at the Big Show Athletic Complex in Leesport, Pa.
“If a team doesn’t communicate I don’t think they can play together,” Kensicki said. “I wasn’t at the first tournament and they all told me no one was talking, and when I came in here everyone started to match my energy.”
At the plate the 6-foot, 175-pound Kensicki walked, had a two-run single and scored. Defensively he threw out a baserunner at second with a laser to the edge of the bag.
And of course he directed traffic among his infielders, called pitches and helped Sciarra chart five excellent innings. Sciarra faced just three batters over the minimum, and only one Futures hitter hit a ball to the outfield.
Not to sound like a high school syllabus, but both players said the key to their chemistry is history. Conway said it was by design that a majority of the Steelsharks have been playing together since their Little League days.
“I’ve known Kam since Little League, so we’ve always been throwing to each other,” said Sciarra, who noted Kensicki’s arm and framing to be among his catcher’s best tools. “I know how he plays. He knows how I play and we work together well.”
With Kensicki’s guidance, Sciarra walked just two batters and struck out eight with a very effective curveball.
“He threw strikes, his curveball was on, and he pitched a great game,” Conway said of Sciarra. “I don’t think they hit many balls out of the infield (The answer is one). When you throw the ground ball, it’s good pitching.”
“Knowing Rocco, he works quicker so I need to slow him down as a catcher because he’ll get balks, and he’ll sometimes call the wrong pitch,” Kensicki said. “But when guys make errors, it’s baseball, and I’m here to calm them down. It’s my favorite part about it – taking control of the game. That’s my thing.”
The Steelsharks didn’t wallop the Futures so much as they continually pecked away until the Futures ran out of time.
The Steelsharks went to work in the first inning when leadoff man Jake Strong singled, stole second and later scored on an infield throwing error. For the game, Strong reached base and scored in all three of his plate appearances.
In the second inning, the Steelsharks padded their lead to 3-0 when Connor Martinez had an RBI groundout and Willie Cruz scored on a balk, one of four by Futures pitching. Strong scored on a balk in the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Kensicki stroked a two-run single to right for a 6-0 lead, and he later came around to score on a balk for the final margin.
Bowser relieved Kensicki after 79 pitches, and pitched a perfect sixth with two strikeouts to end the game.
“I knew I was going to come out here and throw strikes and I knew I had a good defense behind me,” Sciarra said. “My breaking ball and fastball were both working so I just had to come out here and have a good game.
“We were excited to get out here (to Flemington) because we were coming off a bad tournament last weekend, so we needed this win and came out here and showed our best.”
Futures starting pitcher Spencer Rosen allowed five runs, but he permitted just three hits and he struck out three in his 4⅓ innings of work. His undoing was yielding seven walks and two balks.
Kiefer Grim relieved Rosen for the final 1⅔ innings and allowed two runs on one hit, three walks and two balks with three strikeouts.
The Steelsharks (1-0) played TSA 15U Marucci – Scott on Saturday at 2:15 p.m., and faced Locked In Expos Blue on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
Futures White (0-1) challenged Locked In Expos Blue on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., and TSA 15U Marucci – Scott on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.