Jason Sporer of the FB Braves 12U squad singles up the middle to deliver a walk-off victory.
By Rich Bevensee
Jason Sporer wasn’t thinking about the pressure situation he found himself in. He wasn’t thinking about how all his teammates were counting on him with the game on the line. And he wasn’t thinking about how wonderful it would be to beat the well-respected host program.
Leave it to a 12-year-old to keep it simple.
“I wasn’t that nervous, honestly,” Sporer said. “All I wanted to do is get something to hit, maybe take it the opposite way.”
Cool customer, that Sporer kid. The No. 3 batter for the Flores Baseball Braves 12U squad walked up to the plate in a tie game with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning. He responded with a single up the middle to score Chris Steiner with the winning run and give the Braves a dramatic 7-6 pool play victory over the Diamond Jacks 12U Gold team on Saturday at the King of the Diamond tournament at Diamond Nation.
“I’ve been in that situation multiple times,” Sporer said. “The first time I grounded out and after that I usually come through.”
The Braves reached the tournament semifinals on Sunday before bowing to the Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 12U Americans 10-0, and ultimately finished the weekend 3-1.
The Diamond Jacks Gold team finished 1-2, with its lone victory coming against the Sparta Cyclones (12-2) on Friday.
The Braves built a 6-2 lead on Saturday by surging for four runs in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the second. The Diamond Jacks nibbled their way back with three runs in the third and the tying run in the fourth.
That set the stage for the sixth, where the Flores players did not seem intimidated by the Diamond Jacks climbing back into the game. Mike Martino struck out the side in the top of the inning with an overpowering fastball. In the bottom half, Flores loaded the bases when Chris Steiner and Aiden Krauss both had infield singles and Pete Velardi walked.
Then Sporer strode to the plate. Had he made an out, the game would have ended in a tie because the one hour, 50-minute game clock had expired, and extra innings are not played in pool play.
“It goes back to the academy – Flores Baseball does an excellent job of training the kids, not only on the field skill-wise but mentally as well, and you saw that today,” Braves coach Ron Newman said. “The Diamond Jacks battled back and our kids hung in there. No matter what the situation, they kept on fighting, and that’s the philosophy at Flores Baseball.”
As big as Sporer’s moment was, it may not have come to pass were it not for Martino’s pitching in the top half of the sixth.
“I was just trying to get out of the inning and get the boys up to bat,” Martino said. “I’m kind of comfortable in those situations, and the energy from the team was nice to have behind me. It was an amazing feeling walking off the mound.”
It appeared the hosts would have the upper hand when Lee Zarnas scored on a wild pitch and Jack Leibensperger had an RBI single to give the Diamond Jacks a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Braves roared back with four runs in the bottom half. Martino had an RBI groundout before Asher Carnay and Cash Fletcher rocked back-to-back RBI doubles. Fletcher later scored on a wild pitch for a 4-2 lead.
In the second, Max Lopez singled and later scored on a wild pitch, and Joey Elwardany added an RBI groundout to score M.J. DeJianne.
The Diamond Jacks began their comeback in the top of the third when Zarnas stroked an RBI single and Leibensperger sliced a two-run single into right field, bringing the Jacks to within 6-5.
In the fourth, Theo Batista reached on an error, advanced on a fielder’s choice and stole home with two out to tie the game at 6-6.