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One of my preseason feature stories focused on a Fox Lane lineup that can mash, but also questioned whether the Foxes would have enough pitching to compete for a Class AA title. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that they had the talent to produce enough quality innings, but it was clear that Fox Lane would need some unproven guys to step up.
So far, they have.
“To be honest with you, I’m not really surprised,” senior RF Jackson Kushner said. “I knew a lot of people had doubts about our pitching coming into the season, but I knew we had a lot of young talent and it was only a matter of time before it came together and we started winning games.”
Junior Alec Brown was the story in today’s 7-3 win at Harrison, as he continues to rattle off impressive outings. He didn’t allow an earned run and struck out eight on his way to another win, despite not even being a guy that was considered a lock for the rotation before the season started.
“We’ve played against a couple of really top level teams – elite teams – that we’ve been able to throw our young guys at,” Brown said. “Andrew Workman has done a great job eating up innings and throwing really well. Matt Oniffrey saved me in the Guilderland game when I hurt my arm. He came in and destroyed. We have a lot of guys coming off the bench. Jacob Smith pitched (today), got in a little jam, but got himself out. Every pitcher has stepped up, so I think we’re going to be alright.”
• Fox Lane coach Matt Hillis wasn’t even sure if Brown (pictured to the right) would be able to make today’s start after experiencing some tightness in his shoulder on Friday, but Brown got through today’s outing with no ill effects. “Last week against Guilderland in the Northeast (Elite) tournament, I tweaked my shoulder a little bit and didn’t feel too good, but my coaches have been helping me out a lot and letting me stretch out and throw pens when I need to, giving me the best treatment that I could ask for,” he said. “Today was a great game, and I didn’t feel it at all.”
• Brown cruised through five innings before running into a little trouble in the sixth, but he never let it get out of hand. One run scored on a passed ball, but that would be it. His final line was: 5.2 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 99 pitches (59 strikes, 40 balls). “My fastball was really working today,” he said. “I blew it by a lot of kids. My offspeed wasn’t really finding the zone early, and then later in the game it was working.”
• Brown’s fastball definitely has a little pop and he can locate it, which was able to generate some swings and misses, but what stood out most was the way that he attacked. He controlled the tempo of the game and wasn’t afraid to throw strike one. “We’ve seen the same exact thing pretty much every time out,” Hillis said. “The kid goes out with an absolute bulldog mentality and there’s a lot to be said for that. He definitely has a plus fastball, which is nice, but he goes out there and gets after it. He pitches quickly, typically works ahead in the count, and when Alec does start to tire, you can definitely see that he starts losing his command a little bit. He’s been pitching with a little bit of tightness, but he’s still battling, so we love his attitude. He’s a gamer.”
• Brown also benefited from early run support, with Fox Lane jumping out to a 7-0 lead. In total, the Foxes pounded out nine hits – three for extra bases – and walked three times in the first four innings. “Coming into a game when you’re up four of five runs, you feel less pressure on yourself to perform,” Brown said. “Of course, you want to still do your best and perform, but I think it’s easier for me to be a better pitcher and a better teammate when I have a lot of run support.”
• Fox Lane first struck in the second, with Kenny Hayden’s two-out triple followed by an error for two runs. Kushner hit a two-run single and Mark Shkrelja roped an RBI double in the third, and then Kushner and Ryan Bailey each had RBI singles in the fourth. “We saw a lot of fastballs today, and I think that really helped us out with the bats,” Kushner said. “Coach emphasizes line drives, down and hard, and that’s what we tried to do. It worked today.”
• Junior RHP Matt Baker got the start for Harrison, as he seems to have emerged as the Huskies’ No. 2 after senior Luke Sassano (who will pitch at Fox Lane on Friday). He had decent stuff and showed his willingness to challenge the Foxes in the beginning of the game, but they were more than ready to jump on fastballs in the zone early in the count. “Coach talked about the approach with the hitting,” Kushner said. “We start on an 0-0 count with 2-0, 3-1 approach trying to look for our pitch, and I think that was really working today.”
• Baker’s final line was: 4 IP, 7 R, 4 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 84 pitches (49 strikes, 35 balls). “He didn’t have a bad outing,” Harrison coach Marco DiRuocco said. “He missed a few spots here and there, which is going to happen, but we didn’t have the defense behind him and it should have been a lot closer. We were a little sloppy out there, and listen, we didn’t come alive until the last inning. We can’t do that. We have to play a full seven and be ready to go right out of the gate in the beginning of the game, in all facets of the game.”
• As DiRuocco eludes to, the Huskies did show some fight late. After scoring a run in the sixth, they picked up two more on a deep shot over the left field fence from Jack McCarthy to cut it to 7-3. This Harrison lineup appears to have some depth, but DiRuocco talked about wanting to see more of the type of approach that Fox Lane showed — swinging at fastballs early in the count. “We’re much better than that,” he said. “We have to be a lot more aggressive at the plate, and we have to be able to make contact with the baseball. We can’t let fastballs go by for strikes, and we let that happen way too much to put us behind in the count.”
• Needless to say, DiRuocco was impressed with Fox Lane’s lineup. “They can hit,” he said. “They have a potent lineup, for sure, one through nine. You have to be able to locate, change speeds and hit your spots. If you miss spots, these guys are going to take full advantage of it. When you do that, in combination with making errors in the field, they’re going to pounce on you.”
• While the Foxes showed that they’re capable of putting up runs early, they did only manage one hit after the fourth inning. Give credit to relief pitcher Sebastian Pellejero, but Hillis also noted that he felt their approach at the plate deteriorated. “Some complacency set in with our hitters, and we definitely gave away some at-bats late,” he said. “The discipline went away. Just like you see the mechanics break down with a pitcher when he starts to get tired, I saw our guys taking swings that we don’t typically take and chase pitches that we don’t typically chase. When the discipline breaks down, I tell them all of the time, ‘You’re going to go ahead and get yourself out.’ That’s exactly what we did.”
• Getting back to Fox Lane’s pitching for a moment, guys like Oniffrey and Henry Jacobs were expected to contribute and have been relatively effective, but it’s been Brown and Workman who have been the revelations. Workman is only a sophomore. “It’s not that they were unknowns – we had heard good things about them and what they’d done on JV – but you’re basically wondering is it going to go ahead and translate at the varsity level,” Hillis said. “In both of their cases, it has. They haven’t been flustered, they have a great mound presence and they both kind of get after it. And that’s what we’re looking for. We want that gutty performance, where they’re not afraid to throw strike one and not afraid to pitch to contact.”
• A few of the Foxes spoke about their performance at the Northeast Elite tourney as being a big stepping stone in the season. That showed a lot of them that they can hang with some very strong out-of-area teams, and that momentum seemed to carry over into today. “Especially coming out against teams that always go with wood bats, and we don’t usually play with wood bats,” Kushner (pictured to the right) said. “To beat a team like George Washington and a team like Guilderland, and to come close to beating a team like Tottenville – with wood bats especially – is a huge confidence booster for us. It feels really good to play teams with good pitching, good hitting and good defense, and we felt like we absolutely held our own.”
• These teams will play again on Friday after splitting a league title last year. Fox Lane outplayed Harrison in every facet of the game, but DiRuocco is confident that the Huskies can bounce back with their ace on the mound. “We have to learn from this, clean it up for Friday and it’ll be a 0-0 ballgame,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go on Friday and bounce back from this, because we are more than capable of competing with them.”
• I’ll give the final word to Kushner, who spoke about how much stock the Foxes are putting into this week with the hope of positioning themselves for a league title. “Coach has talked a lot about this week. In terms of the three games that we have, it’s probably our biggest week of the season. We definitely wanted to come out to win all three, and we’re on our way.”
• To see the play-by-play action and full box score, click here to see how I scored the game on iScore.
Here are the rest of the results that we’ve received so far:
Moore Catholic 6, Stepinac 4: At Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island, Dan Hoffer had two RBI and Skylar Mercado had two hits for the Crusaders, who led until allowing three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Port Chester 2, Byram Hills 0: At Port Chester, Kyle Drummond struck out two and did not walk a batter in the three-hitter. Drummond also went 2 for 3. Armend Pushka struck out eight and allowed five hits in the complete game for the Bobcats. Jared Feldman went 2 for 3 for the Bobcats.
Tuckahoe 10, Solomon Schechter 8: At Tuckahoe, Mike Liscio had a double and two RBI. John McGrath had two RBI. Mike Arborn had a triple and an RBI. Jake Diamond and Philip Seidenwar each had two RBI for the Lions.
Fox Lane 7, Harrison 3: At Harrison, Jack Kushner had three RBI. Teammate Mark Shkrelja had an RBI and a double. Jack McCarthy had a home run and two RBI.
Arlington 7, Suffern 2: At Suffern, Gabe Cohen went 3 for 4 with an RBI for Suffern. Teammate Jacob Defelice went 2 for 4.
Pawling 6, Haldane 5: At Pawling, the Tigers scored twice in the seventh for a walkoff win. John Maldanado had an RBI for the Blue Devils.
North Salem 2, Croton-Harmon 1, 8: At North Salem, Nick Dolce had a ground-rule double with two outs to score Tommy Cole with the winning run. James Wynne threw seven innings of one-run ball and struck out seven. Brian Soares had an RBI for Croton.
John Jay 6, Mahopac 0: At John Jay, Alec Brown went 2 for 3 with a triple, two runs, and two RBI. Brown also struck out 10 in a two-hit shutout. Tyler Keech went 2 for 2 with two runs.
Hopkins 2, Rye Country Day 0: At Rye Country Day, Matt Crowley was 2 for 3 with a double.
Rye Neck 7, Dobbs Ferry 1: At Rye Neck, Ryan Aquino struck out eight batters in a three-hitter. Chris Pennell tripled twice and had three RBI. Matt Crowe had an RBI for Dobbs Ferry.
Ossining 9, Pleasantville 8: At Ossining, Sean Trenholm drove in Mitchell Radhuber for the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. Trenholm went 3 for 5 with two doubles and had three RBI. Aron Fried and Kevin Haag each had a double and two RBI. Steve Sicignano went 3 for 4 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
Beacon 12, Panas 10: At Beacon, Pat Schetter went for 4 for 4 with three home runs and seven RBI, including a walkoff homer to win the game.
Bronxville 4, Roosevelt 3: At Bronxville, Niko Doukas hit a walkoff single down the left field line with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Doukas, David Cygonowski, and Nick Saari each had two hits and an RBI for the Broncos. Jean Minier had a double and an RBI for the Indians.
Lourdes 10, Brewster 6: At Brewster, Matt Ghelarducci was 3 for 4 with a double, a home run and two RBI. Garrett Longhurst had a triple and two RBI.
Lakeland 10, Hen Hud 0: At Hen Hud, Chris DiDomizio threw a three-hitter, striking out seven and walking none. Andrew Martinez and Ryan Arena each had a double and an RBI. Peter Pinque went 2 for 2 for Hen Hud.
Somers 7, Carmel 1: At Carmel, Joe Festo went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a double and Joe Scambia went 2 for 3 with two RBI and a triple. Cody Nery went 2 for 3 with a double and RBI for Carmel.
St. Raymonds 4, Iona Prep 3: Ryan Crowley had a two-run double. Nick Figari pitched four hitless innings in relief.
Harvey 22, New York Military Academy 4: At New York Military Academy, Jesse Zubren had a home run and three RBI. Teammate Mike Chavkin had four RBI. John Colangelo had three RBI. Austin Forman and Curtis Rattner each had two RBI for the Caviliers.
Sleepy Hollow 11, Scarsdale 2: At Sleepy Hollow, Edwin Lopez had nine strikeouts in a five-hitter. Peter Pena was 3 for 4 with four RBI. Jason Martinez and Adam Rosenbloom had two RBI apiece.
Ketcham 2, John Jay-EF 1, 11
Photos by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News