Early concerns about Fox Lane’s pitching staff have been alleviated a bit over the course of the past two days. After Julian Haddad held a very strong George Washington team to just four hits yesterday in the first round of the Northeast Elite Tournament, sophomore Henry Jacobs gave the Foxes another solid outing in a 5-4 win in nine innings over North Rockland in the semifinals on Saturday.
“It’s huge,” Fox Lane coach Matt Hillis said of his team’s pitching performances over the weekend. “North Rockland is a very good club – a very good hitting team, as well. To see Henry do what he did was almost as special as what Julian did yesterday.”
Fox Lane went onto lose to NJ powerhouse Don Bosco in the championship, 6-0, but they left with plenty of reasons to feel good about themselves. By almost all accounts, this was the strongest field of teams this tournament has ever hosted. Section 1 had a strong showing, with North Rockland taking third and Clarkstown South placing sixth.
“Section 1 represented itself very well,” Hillis said.
The Red Raiders were also very impressive in their loss to the Foxes. There was only one error combined between the two teams in nine innings, and the pace was great with the wood bats. It just felt like a very pure game of baseball.
“That’s what you want to see – competitive baseball,” North Rockland coach Tom Lynch said. “I think this wood bat tournament is great. Yesterday we played eight innings, and now today we played nine. Everybody is in the game, and I love that kind of baseball.”
North Rockland seemed destined to win the game after scoring two runs in fourth. While Jacobs (pictured to the right) was effective in his first varsity start, allowing only two earned runs. He was pulled with two outs in the fifth after throwing 84 pitches (47 strikes).
“He didn’t give us length,” Hillis said. “But he gave us quality.”
The Red Raiders had a 2-0 lead going into the seventh, with RHP James Veltidi shutting down the potent Fox Lane offense through six innings.He wasn’t overpowering, but threw a ton of strikes (52 strikes in 78 pitches). He looks like a solid complement to ace Joe Anselmi.
“James’ last two outings have been great,” Lynch said. “He threw nine no-hit innings against North – when we won in 12 – and then today he had command of all three of his pitches. He was throwing strikes and didn’t walk anyone, but then in that last inning he started to leave balls up.”
The Foxes started to get to Velditi in seventh with three straight singles to begin the inning and knock him out of the game. After Velditi came out, TJ Hallock scored on a passed ball and Drew Fopeano tied the game with a sac fly to force extras.
“I had a talk with them this morning because yesterday was a big game, and it’s my personal opinion that a letdown is just a sign of mental weakness,” Hillis said. “We were hoping to guard against it, which is why I brought it up so much. Quite honestly, I don’t know if we had the fire that we needed to have in the first couple of innings, but we turned it on.”
Fox Lane scored again in the eighth on an RBI single from Jackson Kushner to go up 3-2, but North Rockland answered in the bottom half of the inning with a two-out RBI single from Xavier Reyes to extend the game. It seemed like every time someone seemed to win the game, the other team would respond.
In the ninth, Richard Slenker hit a two-run single to put the Foxes up 5-3. The opposite field hit was his third consecutive hit, and it came off of the hard-throwing LHP Manny Santos. These Foxes seem to love their fastballs.
“They brought in a kid who threw harder, which was nice,” Slenker said. “I just had to let the ball get deep. … We’re a fastball hitting team.”
Wardy Polanco (pictured to the left) nearly brought North Rockland back with an RBI single in the bottom half of the ninth, but the Red Raiders would fall one run short. I was really impressed with Polanco and Elbin Martinez. Martinez hits third and plays 2B, while Polanco hits fourth and plays SS. They combined to go 4 for 9 at the plate, but were also stellar in the field. They turned a few double plays, and Martinez in particular made an outstanding over the shoulder catch in foul territory early in the game. I can’t imagine a better middle infield in the section.
“It’s the best double play combination that I’ve ever coached,” Lynch said. “They’re very consistent, they work well together, they communicate with each other and they’re always together. They’re good friends on and off the field. They’re very sound defensively and offensively.”
After the game, Lynch seemed to be very pleased with his team’s performance — minus one thing. The Red Raiders caught got in at least two rundowns that come to mind, and made some iffy decisions on the basepaths.
“I was happy with the way with swung the bats, but I wasn’t happy with the way we ran the bases,” he said. “Two guys missing signs — I don’t know what they were doing. That’s the stuff that you have to overcome if you’re going to beat a good team.”
As for Fox Lane, the biggest positive that they’ll take away in their emerging pitching depth. Hillis’ acknowledged that Haddad probably has to be considered the No. 1 at this point, but Jacobs, Hallock, Kushner, Robby Seraita and Nick Tortorella have all thrown well at times. There’s no dominating arm in the bunch, but as Hillis points out, “The beauty here is that we can play matchups.”
Kushner pitched a decent game against Bosco in the final, but the Foxes were overmatched by Tommy Burns. There was a scout in the stands from the Seattle Mariners who was there to see him pitch. Fox Lane loaded the bases against him in the fifth and sixth innings, but couldn’t drive in any runs.
“He has obviously a plus-plus fastball and a very good curveball,” Hillis said. “But the thing that impressed me most was we had two huge threats, and every time he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch.”
North Rockland ended up taking third with a 3-1 win over Guilderland. Clarkstown South took sixth, beating Tottenville and then losing to George Washingon.
Here are the rest of the scores from Saturday:
White Plains 17, Mount Vernon 5: At White Plains Friday, Alex Gallo went 2 for 3 with a grand slam and five RBI. Kyle Adams went 2 for 3 with a triple and three RBI.
Guiderland 7, Clarkstown South 6: In the first round of the Northeast Elite Tournament Friday, Matt Lozic had two hits and two RBI. John Kukara and Chris Bunyan each had two hits and an RBI.
Arlington B 2, North Salem 1: At North Salem, Tommy Bond pitched a complete game giving up four hits and one earned run for the Tigers.
Woodlands 7, Hamilton 2: At Hamilton Friday, Eulisias Inglesias pitched a complete game allowing five hits with 15 strikeouts. Ray Pujols went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBI and Brian Rosado went 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Keio 6, Blind Brook 3: At Blind Brook, Seiichiro Usui scored two runs for the Unicorns. Kento Suga allowed two earned runs and no walks in the complete game win. Dan Fishman struck out six in four innings in the no decision.
Yonkers 4, Tuckahoe 0: At Tuckahoe, Jean Mejia had a double and three RBI. Nick DeMarco took the win allowing a hit and a walk in four innings and struck out three. LJ Gallo took the loss pitching a two-hitter allowing two earned runs, four walks and struck out seven.
Harrison 4, Byram Hills 1: At Byram Hills, Steve DeLeo went 2 for 2 with a home run and two RBI and Luke Sassano pitched a complete game with nine strikeouts.
Putnam Valley 9, Hen Hud 7: At Hen Hud, Anthony Gentile went 2 for 3 including a double and two RBI for the Tigers. Connor Gembecki went 2 for 4 and drove in a run. Matt Solnik went 2 for 4 including a double and had two RBI for the Sailors.
Ossining 6, Westlake 2, 15: At Westlake, Zach Giusti had two hits and two RBI and pitched eight innings of relief to grab the win. The Pride scored four runs in the top of the 15th inning. Rashawn Armstrong had a solo home run and Greg Lamb had a hit and an RBI.
Pleasantville 4, Croton-Harmon 0: At Croton-Harmon, Joe Chiasson pitched a complete game shutout giving up four hits and striking out 12.
Valhalla 3, Rye Neck 1: At Rye Neck, Mike Linnane drove in the game-winning runs on a two-run double with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Ryan Aquino had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings before Al Corradi singled. Aquino then walked Ben Scher before Linnane’s double. Aquino struck out five in the loss. Louis Ingrassia struck out nine and did not allow an earned run in the complete game win.
Horace Greeley 17, Port Chester 3: At Horace Greeley, Andres Larramendi went 3 for 3 with four RBI and Justin Ellick went 2 for 4 with two RBI. Chris DiGuglielmo had two hits and an RBI. Bryan Levy had a hit and an RBI for the Rams.
Mamaroneck 3, Massapequa 2: At Mamaroneck, the Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to defeat the ninth ranked AA team in the state. Ryan Orgielewicz ledoff the inning with a single before scoring on an error. Mike Presley then tripled in the tying run before scoring the game-winner on a grounder off the bat of Connor Bingham. Will Hofmann (4-0) struck out eight in the complete game win. The Tigers, ranked 18th in class AA, defeated the Chiefs in the state finals in 2008 and defeated them again in 2009 on an 11th inning walkoff in the state semifinals.
Somers 7, Beacon 1: At Somers, Joe Scambia went 2 for 3 with a double and four RBI. Alex Wienecke went 2 for 3 with a double, two runs scored.
Suffern 17, Nyack 4: At Nyack Friday, Dom Kulbaba went 2 for 4 with two runs and five RBI, including a three-run homer. Teammate Joey Aiola went 3 for 5 with four runs and two RBI. Paul Giardina went 3 for 4 with an RBI. Kevin Shapiro struck out five in the complete game win.
Suffern 9, Columbia 5: At Suffern, Dom Kulbaba struck out nine in the complete game win. Kulbaba also scored and drove in a run. Jacob DeFelice went 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI. Aiola went 2 for 4 with three runs scored.
All Hallows 3, Stepinac 2: At Stepinac, Julian Ponce allowed two earned runs in six innings for the no decision. E.J. King went 1 for 2 with a run.
Harvey 1, Watkinson 0: At Watkinson, Corey Eisenband scored on a wild pitch in the third inning. Will Schubert and Mike Chavkin combined to throw a three-hit shutout for Harvey.
Photos by Peter Carr/The Journal News