By Sean Reilly
Chris Maus has a practice policy for his Hudson Valley Renegades 12U Maus squad which was very evident over the weekend at Diamond Nation.
“We’re a big defensive team,” he said. “If they don’t play defense, they don’t hit in practice.”
The Renegades sparkled in the field, and fared even better at the plate during a busy but very productive Sunday at the August Showdown 12U Tournament in Flemington.
After rolling to two victories earlier in the day to sweep to a first-place finish in its pool, the Renegades blanked the PS2 Athletics, 6-0, to capture the championship.
Ben Sinsabaugh pitched all six innings for the Renegades, allowing two hits with seven strikeouts, one walk and hit a batter. His strong defensive backing was evident as eight of his other outs were recorded on ground balls. He got another on a pickoff throw to first base.
“They’re really good behind me,” Sinsabaugh, a 6-2 right-hander, said. “Anything that was hit, they caught. With the way they play, I don’t have to throw as many pitches and I don’t get as tired.”
Sinsabaugh was also big with his bat. He hit a three-run opposite field home run in the bottom of the first, which was followed by a long two-run blast from Logan Martucci later in the inning for a 5-0 lead. The two were named Co-Most Valuable Players for the tournament.
The early burst followed a day-long script for the Renegades. Their first game of the day was a 20-0 win over Total Skills that featured an 11-run second inning. Hudson Valley then scored 12 times in the first inning while beating Revolution Baseball, 18-0.
The Renegades opened the tournament with a 15-2 triumph over New York Prospects 12U Richie on Saturday, for a four-game run difference of 59-2. Those lopsided scores also enabled the team to conserve its pitching along the way, and for a fresh Sinsabaugh to go the distance in the final.
“It was terrific to send a message and set the tone in all of those games,” Maus said. “It’s really important at this age.”
The Renegades set a defensive tone in the top of the first inning of the final. Two PS2 Athletics batters grounded out to third baseman Gavin Mammola. A third walked, but was picked off at first.
In the bottom of the inning. Jack Quirk led off and reached on an error. Affy Middlebrook then singled, and after an infield fly to first base, Sinsabaugh stepped to the plate, and the righty batter sliced a home run over the fence in right field.
“That was big,” Sinsabaugh said. “We needed some early runs. I was looking to go oppo, and they threw outside.”
George Simou followed with a double to left center, and the next batter was Martucci, who launched a ball far beyond the fence in left field for the five-run lead.
The other run came in the second inning. Jacob Slifstein reached on an error with two out, and moved to second on an errant pickoff try. Quirk worked a full-count walk, and Middlebrook followed with an RBI base hit to right field.
Sinsabaugh was in control the rest of the way. Defensive highlights included a bare-handed fielding play by Mammola at third base in the third, which was immediately followed by another impressive handling of a grounder by Slifstein at second base.
PS2 Athletics, a North Jersey-based team, got a single to right field by Max Balseca in the fourth inning and another base hit to right from Jamel Summers in the fifth.
For Hudson Valley, the championship at Diamond Nation was the latest for a team that has shown steady improvement while playing several years together. This was the team’s first championship in three years amidst several appearances at “The Nation.” The team was a frequent finalist in other tournaments last year, but has now won seven titles this year amongst its travels.
“I love coming here, and it’s not easy,” Maus said. “It’s very hard. We won three years ago here, so it’s been a long time. I’ve been coming here for probably 10 years, and those two are it, so it’s great to win.”
“It’s great to win here,” Sinsabaugh said. “It feels really good to get the championship and also be named the MVP.”