USA Prime Northeast 16U battles gamely in Super 17

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 24, 2023

Peter Burnley drove in two runs for USA Prime Northeast Stars.

By Rich Bevensee

Inasmuch as the USA Prime Northeast 16U Select baseball team learned some hard lessons during the Super 17 Invitational Powered by Victus, the team showed its ability to bounce back from a heart-breaking loss and finish with a .500 record for the week.

Seven players scored and Prime managed to keep errors to a minimum during a misty rain to secure a 9-4 victory over Ascent Athlete 2024 Miller on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

The victory came one day after Prime lost a two-run lead on a walk-off triple and lost to Bandits Baseball Club, 5-4. 

Prime lost its first game of the week, 3-1, to Sports Zone Athletic, then rebounded to beat Locked In Expos 17U, 3-2. 

“Going up against upperclassmen, that’s what we want regardless of the outcome, so the competitiveness is what we want to see,” Prime coach Jared Moore said. “We got off to a rough start, going down 3-1 in the first game, but with the great chemistry that we have, we ended up pulling through and finishing 2-2.”

All but two of Prime’s players are rising juniors, while the three teams it played this week – and in fact most teams in the Invitational – have rosters comprised of rising seniors. 

“I think they handled it very well,” Moore said. “We could have walked out of here 4-0 — we had a one-run loss on a walk off and a two-run loss, both to upperclassmen. It was everything I expected. They gave me everything they had for 28 innings of baseball.”

Cole Kirschner leads off first after collecting one of four hits for Ascent Athlete.

Peter Burnley, one of the two rising seniors on Prime, is from St. Augustine Prep in Richland. He contributed two RBI, one on a single and one on a bases-loaded walk. Two rising juniors, Ryan Gollon (Kingsway) and J.J. Peifer (Cherokee), both scored twice.

Prime starting pitcher Jackson Smallets, a rising junior at Gloucester Catholic, pitched two innings and allowed three runs on one hit and three walks with two strikeouts.

“Playing against older boys, we learned we have to play harder,” Smallets said. “I pitched during the high school season and I’m used to playing against older kids. I came off a little shaky this game because of the rain but I tried to battle through and came out with a win.” 

Nick Kalogiros pitched three innings in relief of Smallets and permitted one run on three hits and no walks with two strikeouts. 

In a game where most of the runs were a product of wild pitches and errors, the first run was almost ordinary, as Burnley drove in Luca Mannino with a soft dribbler down the left field line in the bottom of the first inning.  

Prime used the inning to build a 4-0 lead. Gollon scored on an error on a Nick Dromboski grounder, Matt Stern scored on a Kalogiros fielder’s choice, and Burnley scored on the ensuing errant throw.

Ascent bounced right back with three runs in the top of the second. Leadoff hitter Jake Hurda had an RBI infield single and Alex Barrist hustled home from second on the play. Pete Crespo then stole home when Hurda attempted to steal second.

Prime pushed its lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the second. Aaron Menickella scored on a wild pitch, and both Nick Traynor and Burnley forced in runs with bases-loaded walks.

In the top of the third, Ascent chipped away at its deficit when Tyler Beaulieu smacked an RBI single following the loudest and longest hit of the game, a triple to center by Magnus Krieger.

Prime made it 9-4 in the bottom of the fourth when Peifer scored on an error on a Gollon grounder, and Gollon later scored on a wild pitch.

Ascent came away from the tournament with a single win, a 7-6 verdict over Philly Bandits 16U. Ascent lost to the Taconic Rangers, 5-4, and to Northeast Pride 24 National, 4-2.

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