By Jason Hanes
Five early runs and key relief pitching were key for Diamond Elite 15s as it held on to defeat DiMaria Baseball Academy, 7-4, in a winner’s bracket contest at the Triple Crown 15U Summer Nationals in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Saturday afternoon.
The win sets up a Sunday afternoon contest for Diamond Elite 15s against Inside Edge Carter, with the winning squad getting a slot in Monday morning’s championship game.
“I think anytime you can get on top early in the ballgame, you’ve got a good chance to win,” said Diamond Elite 15s head coach Ken Bukauskas. “Usually, the team that scores first is going to win, so it’s important that we come out and swing. Our approach is to think swings first.”
Diamond Elite 15s sacrificed an out for the first run of the game in the top of the opening inning. With runners on the corners and one out, the runner from second went in motion, and Drew Lampl came home as the throw was let go. While Weston Turner would be thrown out at second, Lampl would score to make it 1-0.
In the second, after a throwing error allowed a run to score, a double by Mitchell Young made it 3-0. Singles by Turner and Lampl would add on two runs to make it 5-0.
A sacrifice fly brought DiMaria Baseball Academy within four in the fourth, 5-1. In the fifth, three runs came home before Tyler Kelly came in to pitch with one out in the inning. On a ground ball to short with two runners on, DiMaria Baseball Academy tried to steal a run on a ground ball to short; however, after the force at second, a throw to the plate would get the runner trying to score, ending the inning.
From there, Kelly would shut down the opposition. He would notch four strikeouts over the final two perfect innings of relief. He would also help his own cause with a single in the sixth that would lead to one of two insurance runs over the final two innings to get the win.
“I was just trying to keep it on the outside corner and keep them having to reach,” said Kelly. “I didn’t want to give them anything down the middle or anything easy to hit.”
“I was trying to hold on a little bit because he threw yesterday. But when it comes down to it, we needed to put someone in who can throw strikes,” coach Bukauskas said.
The win means that Diamond Elite 15s is potentially two wins away from the championship, but staying clear of the loser’s bracket could prove to be a big advantage heading into the final two days. “Any time you can limit pitches and limit the number of pitchers that you have to use is a big advantage,” coach Bukauskas said. “It’s not like we have a whole staff of arms out here. We’ve got guys that are playing positions and I’m trying to keep it where are numbers are good and we’ve got a lot of pitchers still left.”