US9 Prospects’ Charlie Slauson gets set at the plate. Tyler Tuckey is behind the plate for Smithtown.
By Will Harrigan
A baseball team that is in control for a good amount of a game, only to see their lead slip away, can fall apart very quickly.
It can also respond to the challenge. And that’s exactly what the US9 Prospects ‘24 travel squad did on Saturday afternoon.
Responding with two runs in the fifth to tie, and two more in the bottom of the seventh, the Prospects notched a 6-4 victory over the Smithtown Bulls in Diamond Nation’s Super 16 showcase event at Raritan Valley Community College.
The Prospects finished their day at 1-1 with the rebound win, as the Massachusetts-based club dropped an earlier 9-4 decision to Bell Ringers 2024 Black. The Smithtown Bulls dropped their first game of the showcase after tying ASBA Futures White, 2-2.
“I love the way the kids responded,” said US9 Prospects coach Pete Mrowka. “They went on a big rally in that inning, took the lead, and our guys came right back. Says a lot about our players and it’s more than talent.”
Trailing 4-2 with a man on and two outs in the top of the fifth, US9 Prospects’ Francesco DeVivo reached on a dropped fly ball to put the tying run on base.
Putting the ball in play is sometimes all you need, another disastrous error committed by the Bulls on a Charlie Bushley grounder led directly to two runs, knotting the game up at 4-4.
After a scoreless sixth, back-to-back doubles by Dylan Murphy and DeVivo put the Prospects ahead 5-4 in the seventh. Gabe Knudsen would double that lead a batter later when his warning track fly ball was more than enough to score DeVivo, who had taken third on a passed ball.
DeVivo finished the game on the mound for the Prospects also, tossing three innings of shutout ball – including a scoreless bottom of the seventh – to preserve the victory.
“Francesco pitched well for us. He threw strikes and that’s what’s most important,” Mrowka said. “Baseball is a simple game in the end, and it comes down to pitching.”
The Bulls – made up entirely of high school ball players from Long Island – put up a four-spot in the home fourth to take the lead.
The big blow came off the bat of pitcher Brian Hope, who plays his high school ball for Smithtown West on the Island. With two men away, Hope launched a double into the right-center field gap to break a 2-2 tie and give his team a 4-2 lead.
The two tying runs earlier in the inning scored when a routine ground ball hit by Ryan Conk with two men on base wound up out of play, a costly error committed by the Prospects.
For a while, it appeared that George Slauson’s first inning RBI single and Murphy’s sacrifice fly in the second would hold, as Prospects starter Jack Gallagher cruised through the first three innings by only surrendering one hit. None of his four runs were earned in four innings of very solid work.
US9 Prospects were wrapping up their weekend at press time back at Diamond Nation by taking on the ASBA Futures White at 10 a.m. The Bulls close out their schedule with the Bell Ringers at 4:30 p.m. in Flemington.