Jett Drew, who went 2-for-2 with three RBI, steals third base for USA Prime Northeast 12U Elite .
By Sean Reilly
Jackson Hibbs was put to a very early test on Friday afternoon at Diamond Nation.
Hibbs was the starting pitcher for USA Prime Northeast 12U Elite against Team X-Treme in the opening game of the 12U Mid-Summer Classic in Flemington.
Team X-Treme’s first three batters delivered hits, and the fourth drew a four-pitch walk. One run scored, and the bases were loaded with nobody out.
“I was thinking that I had to just hit the strike zone,” he said. “And allow people to make plays behind me.”
Hibbs then displayed impressive poise which resulted in strikeouts of the next two batters, followed by a foul out to right fielder Max Linaris, whose running catch by the foul line was the first of many impressive plays by the USA Prime defense.
Not only did Hibbs work out of that jam with minimal damage, he went on to pitch a complete game that sent USA Prime to a 7-2 victory.
Leadoff man Billy Coyle was 1-for-1 with two walks, two runs and five stolen bases, Mikey Karle had a double, single and two runs and Jett Drew added a double, single and three RBI for USA Prime. But the true difference in the game for the South Jersey team may have been the pitching of Hibbs meshed with the defensive gems that were made all around the diamond.
Before any of that, however, Team X-Treme took a quick lead when Evan Helminger led off the game with a double to center field and Paul Carpenter followed with an RBI single to center.
USA Prime also scored in the first inning, when Coyle walked, stole second and then stole third before coming home on an overthrow to the base.
Hibbs, who allowed seven hits overall, with eight strikeouts and one walk, struck out two of three batters in a 1-2-3 top of the second. In the bottom of the inning, Karle led off with a grounds rule double to center field, and, with two out, he scored on a double to right-center by Drew.
The USA Prime defense was at its finest in the top of the third. The Team X-Treme leadoff batter hit a hard liner that was caught by shortstop Adam Piotrowski, who dove to his left and made an outstretched grab. The next batter hit a liner that was snared by second baseman Jackson Howell. And after a double by Helminger, a fly ball to right field was caught by a charging Linaris, who made a shoestring catch to save a run and end the inning.
It was no surprise that the USA Prime dugout was at its loudest in the moments before it came to bat in the bottom of that inning.
“That really helped me out, because it kept my pitch count low,” Hibbs said. “It also got everyone more confident in themselves.”
With one out in its half of the third, Coyle hit a single over third base and into left field. He stole second and third, and then scored when Piotrowski hit a two out pop up to the left side of the infield that was lost in the sun by both the third baseman and shortstop and fell between them for a single and 3-1 lead.
After Hibbs struck out the side in the top of the fourth, USA Prime broke the game open with a four-run bottom of the frame. Aiden Gaskill was hit by a pitch, Karle was safe on a single courtesy of a fly ball that fell between the left and center fielders, and Linaris hit a first-pitch single to left field to load the bases.
After a pitching change and an out, Drew delivered a single to center that was misplayed, allowing him to reach third as the bases were cleared. Hibbs then had a RBI ground out for a 7-1 lead.
“My curveball, change-up, two seam fastball and four seam fastball were all working well,” Hibbs said. “I really like playing here.”
Both teams were defeated in their second games of the day. USA Prime lost to Triple Crown, while Team Xtreme fell to the Diamond Jacks Super 12U.
USA Prime completes pool play on Saturday night against the Diamond Jacks Super 12U at 6:30 p.m. Team X-Treme plays Triple Crown on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.