Wladyka American’s Cole Goumas led off the game with an inside-the-park home run.
By Rich Bevensee
Following a meager offensive performance on Saturday morning, Paul Urbanovich had one simple message for his Wladyka Baseball American squad.
Swing the bats.
And did they ever in their second game in the sweltering afternoon sun against Jersey Boyz Baseball, although the message took some time to register.
Guarding a three-run lead heading into the fourth inning, Wladyka suddenly went ballistic, sending all 12 batters to the plate to construct a seven-run rally – and even going for the cycle with four consecutive batters – to earn a 10-0, four-inning victory in the School’s Out 16U Tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“We struggled a little bit in the first game but it was good to see us put the barrel to the ball,” said Urbanovich, whose ballclub bowed 6-1 to Interstate Baseball in a morning tilt. “Our approach changed a little bit – we were more aggressive in the strike zone. In the first game I thought we were more tentative in the strike zone. We talked about it between games and the kids came out swinging.”
Wladyka left-hander Aidan Kempf was just as outstanding as his offense, pitching three shutout innings and allowing one hit and one walk while striking out four, mostly by employing a fastball which hovered in the high 70s.
Cole Goumas led off the game by punching a 2-2 pitch past a diving Tony Tedesco at short, and it skidded to the center field fence for an inside-the-park home run. Goumas finished 2 for 2 with a double, a walk and three RBI.
“In this case, the ball just went past him (in center) and I was thinking, ‘Home run,’” Goumas said. “Once it went past him, I just knew.”
In the third inning, back-to-back doubles by Connor Darling and Goumas brought home two more runs for a 3-0 lead.
The floodgates opened in the fourth for Wladyka, which had its first nine batters reach safely before Jersey Boyz recorded an out.
The first four batters of the inning chalked up a team cycle of sorts, as T.J. Gustafson singled, Kyle Watson hit a grounds-rule double over the left field fence, Rocco D’Amico slammed a two-run triple, and Tyler Tsai raced around the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park homer when Jersey Boyz right fielder Ryan Bevensee sprawled out in shallow right but was unable to come up with a diving catch.
Noah Sim and Goumas both pushed across runs with bases-loaded walks, and Jake Czwakiel capped the damage with a fielder’s choice RBI.
“We started off slow today but then everyone just started hitting the ball,” Goumas said.
Kempf made all of that offense stand up with his dominating, three-inning one-hitter. Only Michael Lawler figured out Kempf, as the Jersey Boyz second baseman ripped a strong double to left in the second inning.
“Aidan had command of the strike zone through strike one, he got them in a negative count to start and it’s much easier to pitch that way, by staying in attack mode,” Urbanovich said. “It’s a big confidence thing, getting ahead in the count. Kids feel a lot better as pitchers when they’re ahead in the count, and it puts the batter in a deficit when he’s behind in the count.”
Kempf, who needed only 39 pitches to face two batters over the minimum, threw 27 pitches for strikes. Only one Jersey Boyz batter worked to a three-ball count – Landon Pinho, who earned a first-inning walk.
And the scary prospect for future opposing batters is that this wasn’t even Kempf’s finest work of the spring. Last week, as a guest player for another team, he pitched a no-hitter through five innings before he was pulled for a reliever.
“I was throwing my fastball mostly, a two seam to get that armside run,” Kempf said. “I worked on my curveball a little bit, mixed it with my fastball to mix it up and keep them off balance. I’ve been working on a slider but I didn’t throw it today because I didn’t have a good feel for it. And I really didn’t need to because I was hitting the outside corner with the fastball.
Kendry Gonzalez pitched a scoreless inning of relief for Wladyka, yielding a hit and a walk with three strikeouts.
Alex Mandell took the loss for Jersey Boyz after removing himself two batters into the fourth inning. He allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Julian Montez came on in relief and yielded five runs on three hits and four walks with a single strikeout in ⅓ of an inning. Pinho faced two batters to get the final out of the fourth.
Both ballclubs had 8 a.m. contests to start their Sunday. Wlaydka faced Prospects Baseball Academy. The Jersey Boyz, which lost a 9-1 game to Prospects earlier on Saturday, closed out their weekend by playing Interstate Baseball.