Ryan Perzanowski tripled and singled for the Maryland Blue Chips in the Labor Day Blast.
By Rich Bevensee
When Aaron Snyder found himself the focus of a wild-eyed bunch of ballplayers in a raucous, post-game celebration following his game-winning hit late Sunday evening at Diamond Nation, it completed a journey which began with him not touching a bat during the high school season.
Snyder, a pitcher by trade, was struggling so badly at the plate this past spring when he was called up from JV to varsity at John Carroll High in Bel Air, Md., that he was designated as a pitcher only, a PO in baseball parlance.
Maryland Blue Chips 16U club coach Bill Swart said he doesn’t believe in specialization for players that young, and he told Snyder he would be in the lineup all summer. Snyder’s confidence swelled as his hitting improved, and he eventually took over the leadoff spot for the Blue Chips.
“In the beginning of the summer my confidence was low,” Snyder said. “I switched to a wider stance and it helped a bit, but then I struggled some more. One day in the cage, I told myself, let me just relax, and it shot my confidence up. I got a double in my first at bat after that and the rest of the season went like that.”
Fast forward to Sunday night.
With the game clock expired, Maryland trailed by a run in the bottom of the sixth inning but had runners on second and third with two out and Snyder at the plate.
Snyder, who just a few months earlier was not swinging a bat at all, connected on the biggest hit of his young career. He singled through the middle to drive in the tying run and when the outfield couldn’t make a play on the ball, the second run scored to give the Blue Chips a dramatic 9-8 victory over Baseball U Pa. 16U O’Fier in the Labor Day Blast at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Everybody contributed, everyone did something, and knowing I had a really big part feels good,” Snyder said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s probably going to hit me before I go to bed and I won’t be able to go to sleep.”
The Blue Chips, which went into the bottom of the sixth trailing 8-5, kept their playoff hopes alive with the comeback win. At press time the team was the sole 2-1 squad in the 16U pool and trailed only the unbeaten Hammonton (N.J.) Stars (4-0) in the standings. A pool win over TSA South Marucci on Monday afternoon would clinch a playoff spot in the semifinals between the second and third seeds.
Hammonton awaits the winner in the championship game, slated for 5:30 p.m.
Baseball U, which fell to 1-2 in pool play with a slim chance at a playoff berth, will face the Lehigh Valley Revolution at 1:15 p.m.
The comeback victory was a massive confidence builder for the young Blue Chips, which built a 5-0 lead through five innings, only to see Baseball U explode for eight runs in the top of the sixth.
“These boys never cease to amaze me,” Swart said. “We’ve had quite a few games where we were down and we never counted ourselves out. Sometimes it went to our advantage, sometimes it didn’t. But tonight we knew we had to win to move forward, to get one of the top three seeds and win this thing.”
Trailing 8-5, the Blue Chips began their comeback when Ryan Perzanowski (2-for-2, two RBI, two runs) was hit by a pitch and Brennan Deremeik (2-for-2, two RBI) singled to ignite the rally.
Jack Hudson drove in Perzanowski with a ground out to bring Maryland within 8-6. Then Pierce Doyle walked and represented the tying run at first base.
Henry Beighley had a bit of luck when Baseball U couldn’t field his infield chopper. Deremeik scored and Maryland was down by one.
Baseball U reliever Brayden McMicken struck out Maryland’s No. 10 batter Jace Williams for the second out, and Snyder had a message for Williams as he walked to the plate with runners on second and third.
“I told Jace as he was walking off the field, I’m calling game right here,” said the 5-11, 165-pound Snyder, who also plays catcher and in the outfield, and finished the game at third base. “I knew myself. I knew I was going to get that hit. I’ve been dreaming about this chance. I’m going to get that game-winning hit.”
Snyder’s single scored Doyle from third. When the outfielder couldn’t come up with the ball, Beighley darted around third and slid across home plate head first with the winning run, setting off an infield Blue Chips party.
“It feels really good, and the hype moments after the game, that was the best,” Snyder said. “Me and the guys in the hotel last night were talking about making the last out kind of sucks, and I said I don’t want that feeling. It’s the worst feeling. So I told myself tonight I’m bringing it this time.”
It was a proud moment for Swart and his staff, which believed in Snyder, who is Maryland’s staff ace, and in their philosophy for developing young ballplayers.
“That kid is great in pressure situations,” Swart said. “In high school he was a pitcher only, so coming back from high school we had to work him back and get him ready to swing the bat again. Early on in our season we had to DH for him, and here we are at the end of our season and he’s going for it.
“I don’t believe in POs at this age – all these boys are still developing, especially freshmen and sophomores. We got Aaron on this team and we worked him and now he’s willing to do whatever it takes.”
Brandon Moore, a rising sophomore lefty at Eastern Tech in Baltimore, did a great job silencing the Baseball U lineup through five innings, primarily using his curveball and changeup to scatter six hits and three walks while slipping in and out of trouble. He stranded three runners in scoring position.
“I felt pretty good,” Moore said. “I was trying to stay on the outside part of the plate, working my curveball. they weren’t swinging at it and when they did they weren’t making good contact. My fastball didn’t work as well today so I used my curveball a little more.”
Baseball U, trailing 5-0 in the top of the sixth, found a chink in Moore’s armor when Ben Toczydlowski singled to open the frame and leadoff man Colin Kearney blasted the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for a two-run home run. Kearney finished 3-for-4.
Moore then issued back-to-back walks to Thor Kelly and Derek Locker before Swart pulled his starter in favor of Jack Hudson.
“Brandon has ice in his veins, and we know we can put him in any pressure situation,” Swart said. “He’s got a lot more in the tank, but we have to work on his mechanics. I think he surprises people with his ability to change speeds. Even though he doesn’t have the velocity, he’s a confident guy with his arsenal which is pretty much curveball and changeup.”
Baseball U continued its comeback when McMicken made it 5-3 with a bloop single behind second base. Gehrig Dibble got Baseball U within one run with a fielder’s choice RBI.
Tanner McDavis, who entered as a defensive replacement in the fifth, was hit by a pitch to force in the tying run, and pinch-hitter Connor Flynn walked with the bases loaded to give Baseball U the lead, 6-5.
Doyle relieved Hudson for the Blue Chips, and Baseball U, which had just batted around, padded its lead when Toczydlowski drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. An error on the throw to first to get Toczydlowski brought another run home for an 8-5 Baseball U lead.
“We have had times where we’ve been five or six runs behind and we’ve come back in the end,” Swart said. “Tonight they stayed positive, they picked each other up and they were ready to battle until the end.”
“I knew my guys would come back,” Moore said. “I have faith in my guys. I know they can hit.”
Maryland built a 5-0 lead beginning with a single run in the bottom of the second inning, when Perzanowski drilled an opposite-field triple and Deremeik drove him in with a groundout.
The Blue Chips forged a two-out, four-run rally in the bottom of the third. Perzanowski went opposite field for a bases-loaded, two-run single. In an attempt to nail Chase Bandy trying to go from first to third, the throw sailed into the outfield and Bandy scored. Then Deremeik slapped an RBI single into right to make it 5-0 Blue Chips.
With their remarkable comeback, the Blue Chips logged their third walk-off victory of the season. Beighley was the hero in a June tournament, and the coach’s son, second baseman Max Swart, got the big hit in the championship game in Maryland. Snyder became hero No. 3.
“Moving forward, this game will springboard us into our fall season,” Swart said. “We’ve won a few championships and we’ve had some heartbreakers, but this is going to carry us through. Even if we don’t win this championship we have this game to remember. Having the walk-offs with Aaron are the memories that are going to count.”