Smith’s dominant five innings leads Thunderwolves

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 29, 2022

Thunderwolves’ Nolan Smith was dominant on Thursday, allowing one run over five innings.

By Steve Merrill

Nolan Smith paved the way on the mound for the Thunderwolves Scout in a convincing 6-1 win over Diamond Jacks 16U Gold on Thursday afternoon.

The first few innings were played at a crisp pace. This was partly because of the Thunderwolves’ right-handed starter retiring the first nine batters he faced on the afternoon. Smith tossed a gem over five innings of work, allowing just two hits, one run, one walk, and striking out two.

“He was fantastic,” said Thunderwolves head coach Jeff Ziemecki. “He worked ahead, threw tons of strikes. He stayed within himself and didn’t try to do too much.”

On a hot, sticky day at Diamond Nation, Smith used the weather to his advantage.

“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I was dripping in sweat so I was loose. It felt good. I prefer this over 40 degrees like we started out with in March up in Buffalo so I love it.”

The first hit of the game came on a Thomas Russo double down the left field line with one out in the bottom of the third for the Thunderwolves. After Russo advanced to third on a wild pitch, Brayden Willats walked and stole second. The stage was set for James Simoncelli, who laced the inning’s second double down the line for the game’s first two runs.

The DJacks would get on the board for their lone run the next half inning when Reymundo Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly shaved the deficit to 2-1. Mike Prete became the DJacks’ first base runner of the game when he led off with a walk. Joey Letko followed up with a double to create the RBI chance for Gonzalez.

DJacks lefty Mike Prete fires to the plate during Thursday’s Super 17 World Series.

In the bottom of the fourth, Nick Paszt popped one up behind home but it was dropped by DJacks catcher EJ Balewitz. A few pitches later, Pastz took advantage of the mishap and smacked a home run over the left field fence. Braedon Axelson joined the home run derby and went back-to-back with Pastz, giving the Thunderwolves a 4-1 lead.

“That was cool,” Ziemecki said. “It was the first time we did that all year so it was good. They both absolutely demolished those. It was a nice moment.”

DJacks starter Prete cruised along until the fourth where he started to lose some of his command. Following the home runs, he hit a batter and that was all. Ethan Massadier came in and got the first batter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to retire the side and cap Prete’s line at 3.1 innings, four hits, four runs, with three walks and a strikeout.

In the fifth inning, the Thunderwolves tacked on another run when Paszt was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Massadier was able to work around it and limit the damage to just the one run in the frame.

After Smith’s day was complete, Ziemecki went to Ty Kwitchoff for the final two innings. The right-handed reliever pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning and struck out three batters, working around a walk to close out the game.

The DJacks struggled offensively, only scratching out two hits and having just six batters reach base in the game. Pitching and defense, and some power did the job for the Thunderwolves behind Smith.

“They did a great job out there,” Smith said. “It’s real easy to pitch when you have guys like that who you trust to go out and make plays. It’s also a lot easier when you have a lead of two or three runs. They did just that for me.”

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