Ricky Dager of Hustle Baseball reaches on an error on this shot to the left side.
Two things appeared certain in the early going last night when the D1 Renegades engaged with Hustle Baseball Academy in an early High School Fall League contest at Diamond Nation in Flemington. The Renegades bats were going to be live and in your face and Alex Turner’s arm would be true all night.
Turner stifled the Hustle Baseball bats over four innings and his teammates struck for four runs on four hits in the top of the second inning on the way to an 8-3 victory on the first truly chilly night of the Fall League season.
Turner limited Hustle Baseball to one run on three hits, struck out three and walked two. Righthander Devin McKinley closed out the final two innings, containing a Hustle Baseball lineup that suddenly sprung to life.
The right-handed Turner made the most of a 50-pitch limit set by coach Bill Malloy, a 1993 All-Stater at Immaculata High School.
“I was just trying to do the best I can and show what I can do,” said Turner. “My outside fastball was good and so was my curveball.”
Turner allowed just one base runner in the first two innings, a single in the second by Joey Bernardo. But he found himself in a pickle in the third as the result of an infield error, a walk issued to Minwoo Choi, Matt Castrovinci’s single and another walk to Lukas Frotton.
But all of that base traffic amounted to no runs for Hustle Baseball, mostly because Turner picked Ricky Dager and Castrovinci off of first base. And he was able to strand two runners when Irwin Quezada flew out to deep left field.
“Alex is a sophomore and has a bright future,” said Malloy. “He was throwing strikes and Tate (LaFerrera) was doing a good job behind the dish. It’s a team effort.”
That missed opportunity hurt Hustle Baseball, which was already behind 4-0 courtesy of a four-run top of the second for the Renegades. Choi got the start for Hustle Baseball and deserved a better fate as his teammates committed four errors behind him. Only one of the seven runs Choi permitted over four innings was earned. He struck out three and walked one.
Justin Kolpan, the Renegades No. 4 hitter, led off the second and launched a grounds rule double to left field. McKinley followed with a double down the right field line to score Kolpan. Choi then got two quick outs, one of which was an RBI grounder by Jack Eskind. But Andy Kramer reached on an infield error, Ryan Striker singled through the right side and LaFerrera drew a walk to load the bases.
Alex Zeszotarski (2-for-3, 3 RBI) then singled to right field to score Kramer and Striker and boost the lead to 4-0. The lead was extended to 7-0 in the fourth during a rally ignited by three Hustle Baseball errors. Zeszotarski drove home one run with an infield single and Eric Axelsen followed with a laser through the middle of the diamond for a two-run single. Axelsen’s liner just missed a sprawling Choi on the mound.
“We weren’t getting those timely hits over the weekend,” said Malloy. “We had a much better approach in our at bats tonight. We got our hits and we had productive outs as well.”
Malik Little, Jr. almost single-handedly created Hustle Baseball’s first run of the game in the bottom of the fourth. He singled to center with one out, stole second and came all the way around to score on a fielder’s choice. Alex Sanchez hit a shot back to the box that glanced off Turner toward second base. Second baseman McKinley snared the ball and fired to first for the out. But Little got a great jump off second and beat the throw home.
Kolpan drew a leadoff walk for the Renegades in the fifth and scored on McKinley’s double to right field to lift the lead to 8-1. McKinley tried to stretch the double into three bases but right fielder Castrovinci hit cutoff man Little Jr. who turned and fired to third baseman Bernardo to nail McKinley by a step.
McKinly relieved in the fifth and surrendered an unearned run. Jonathan Rodriguez reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to third on an error and scored on the back end of a double steal to shave the deficit to 8-2.
McKinley, charged with closing out the final inning, too, walked the Nos. 10 and 11 batters to open the inning, triggering a visit from Malloy.
“The fall is a time to make adjustments and Devin was working on his arm slot and the rotation on the baseball,” said Malloy, who, nonetheless, didn’t address mechanics in his visit. “It was more a mental thing. I want them to see things before they do them and not think too much.”
McKinley did attack the strike zone from there, despite surrendering an RBI double to Tommy Jova. But with the big lead he did what was needed and got through it to nail down the 8-3 victory.
NOTES: The Renegades improved to 1-0-1 in Fall League play. Hustle Baseball played two games on Tuesday night and dropped to 2-2 after falling 9-3 to Hillsborough Sr. in the nightcap. Hillsborough Sr. is 4-0 and sits atop the Fall League standings just ahead of Whitehouse Post 284 (3-0).