U.S. Elite’s Meekins breaks Bell Ringers with double-knuckle

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 27, 2024

U.S. Elite’s Chase Gustin is greeted by teammates after crushing a third-inning, three-run homer.

By Rich Bevensee

It was Riley Meekins’ double-knuckle curve which kept batters off balance, at least until the offense could get rolling and Chase Gustin could get some muscle into a fastball.

Meekins fooled Bell Ringers-Beaky batters into three whiffs and routine grounders using his specialized curveball, Gustin launched his second home run of the season, and U.S. Elite PA grabbed an 8-4 victory in 12U Williams Harley Davidson pool play on Saturday morning at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

Meekins said his fastball didn’t have its normal effectiveness so he relied on the double-knuckle curve to get ahead in counts in this all-Keystone State contest. Elite is based in Harrisburg and the Ringers are from Delco, 22 miles southwest of Philadelphia. 

“I usually pitch the first game and do well, but today I wasn’t feeling it so I had to fight with my fastball and do as much as I could to get outs,” said Meekins, who credited pitching coach Glenn Gallagher with helping him develop the hybrid curveball. “It’s fun throwing the double-knuckle because it makes kids look silly when they swing at it.”

Meekins allowed four runs on four hits and two walks over five innings. Kallan Bender pitched a scoreless sixth for Elite.

“Riley didn’t have his best stuff but he worked through it,” Elite coach Trey Pritchard said. “He let his defense work and when he worked ahead in the count he was fine.”

The Elite staggered through a couple of shaky moments in the first two innings where the defense made errors on routine fly balls but quickly righted the ship by getting force outs on those same plays and keeping the Ringers scoreless.

“We work on that. Control what you can control,” Pritchard said. “Mistakes happen in the game of baseball. It’s how you respond.”

The Elite bats woke up in the bottom of the third. Working with a 1-0 lead, Xavier Powell and Bender led off with walks, Jaxon Warner knocked in a run with a groundout, and Hayden Haines provided the first hard-hit ball of the game with an RBI double to center for a 3-0 lead. 

Following an Evan Salla walk and a Wyatt Anderson RBI single, Ringers starting pitcher Owen Angelo was relieved by Colin McDowell. Gustin greeted McDowell’s first pitch by sending a rocket over the left field fence for a three-run homer to cap a six-run rally and provide Elite with a 7-0 lead.

Alex Royer of the Bell Ringers dives back to first while US Elite’s Aiden Reisinger takes the throw.

“In the on-deck circle I was watching him, and he was throwing a lot down the middle so I just tried to drive the ball hard,” Gustin said. “It felt really good. I know I got all of it as soon as I see it start to go up and then it keeps going.”

It was the first homer in a month for Gustin, who’s one of the bigger Elite players on the team yet doesn’t consider himself a power hitter.

“I’m more in the middle between power and contact,” Gustin said. “Contact is better because you hit the ball more often than not.”

The Bell Ringers broke up the shutout in the top of the fourth when Angelo slapped an RBI single up the middle to score McDowell.

Elite countered with a run in the bottom half, as Haines knocked in another run with a single to right for an 8-1 lead. 

The Bell Ringers enjoyed their own mini-rally in the fifth when Alex Ganzo singled with one out, Liam Sherwood drove an RBI double into the left-center gap, and Nick Rash crushed a two-run homer to right to bring the Ringers to within 8-4. 

Later Saturday, Elite was to play Morris County Cubs Grey, and FS Prime on Sunday at 10 a.m.

The Bell Ringers played FS Prime later on Saturday and Morris County Cubs Grey at 10 a.m.

Share With A Friend:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *