A College Instant Classic; Four Bombs in Ohio; Possible Early Season Tension in the Big Apple

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Hi all.   It’s been a while since I could share my tilted, perhaps off kilter opinions about the great game with you.  I’ve kept my ears open while my hands were occupied trying to earn a few bucks. And I’ve heard some things I feel are of interest.  

The most amazing things in this year 2019 aren’t happening in the major leagues where attendance is down and boredom is up.  As a result, before I mention any of tonight’s MLB action, I’ll tell  you of a college game and a high school game that came to my attention. 

 I was lucky enough to listen to a college game between New Jersey City University and William Paterson University, two teams my old alma mater Rowan will have to consider when the conference playoff starts next week. The two teams met at William Paterson’s baseball field.  While the place has a press box for the broadcasters, it has no lights.  Normally that’s no factor, but April 12 was no normal day at WPSU in Wayne, New Jersey. The starter for the William Paterson Pioneers was Cory Martinez who hadn’t lost a game while notching 4 wins.  He pitched heroically, beyond the call of duty and way beyond anything an MLB pitcher would be asked to do in this day of soft, fragile pitchers. His noble foe for the NJCU Gothic Knights was Paul Tannucilli.  The freshman from Old Bridge didn’t go as far as William Paterson’s starter, but he pitched bravely while he lasted. The Gothic Knights scored in the first inning as Matt Corsi singled home speedy Juan Pena who had beaten out an infield hit and stolen second.  I hear people who watch MLB saying “He stole what?”  The Gothics couldn’t know how long it would be before they could score again. As for the home team, they plated a run in the 4th by way of two errors and a scoring fly ball. The Pioneers’ pitcher Martinez had 8 strikeouts on his ledger as the sixth inning ended.  We can safely guess his coaches at field level knew how many pitches he had thrown.  If so, none of the 3 broadcasters knew or cared.  All they did was report his outstanding work. By the 9th he had reached 10 strikeouts.  His offense however hadn’t produced, and the game was still a 1–1 stalemate.  In the home 9th, the visiting Gothic Knights took out their starter Tannucilli in favor of Fernando Guererro. He handcuffed the Pioneers as effectively as his predecessor had done. The Gothic Knights had a chance in the 10th but Ricky Voss wasn’t content with a double and was thrown out trying for a triple. Two more Knights reached base in that frame but pitcher Martinez wiggled his way out of it like an apprentice Houdini. At that point his day was done with 10 innings pitched and as many strikeouts.  Eric Rosenberg followed Martinez to the hill for the home team.  As the hour grew later, fans and players alike were only too glad the game had been played at a rapid pace from the start. By the 12th inning, barely two hours had passed.  Considering the game had started at 3:30 and sunset would come around 7 PM, all concerned hoped for a run.  It would be the 14th inning before their prayers were answered.  While the longest college game I know about was a 19-inning affair in 1988, the game I’m describing is the longest college duel I’ve listened to as it happened. In the visiting 12th, pitcher Rosenberg managed to pick off two runners on the same play, a play you won’t see at the higher levels.

Pitchers Rosenberg and Guerrero dueled on even terms until the 14th when Rosenberg walked leadoff hitter Ryan Guthrie. He reached third when the laboring hurler air-mailed a pickoff throw. To add insult to injury, pitcher Rosenberg then balked the run home, making it 2–1 Gothic Knights.  As the hour was past 6, many headed off to supper thinking that all was lost.  They did this to their sorrow, letting hunger overwhelm their hopes for the school team. After a strikeout to start the home half of the 14th, Vin Dorio doubled in the gap in right center field. The next man up was Carlos Perez who singled home Dorio to level the game at 2–2. Following a fly out by Matt Ferrara, Greg cuevas smacked a solid single to left, sending Perez along to third base. Dan Carter walked to fill the bases with Pioneers. Pitcher Guerrero, normally a one-inning guy who had entered the game in the 9th had to be calling on the last of his resources.  He faced Steven DiGirolamo with the bases full … and walked him, ending the game with William Paterson winning 3–2. That marvelous contest was played in just a shade over 3 hours, and somehow while the field had no lights, the umpires never huddled with the coaches proclaiming that a certain inning would be the last.  I’ve heard that done at the college level, but not in this amazing game.  The odds are stacked against any of these players playing a day of pro baseball, but for today their names are written in this forum in conjunction with probably the best game any of them will ever play.

Especially around the time of the June draft, you hear of amazing deeds done by high school players who may be picked in the early rounds.  As far back as 1973, the buzz was David Clyde, a kid pitcher from a high school in Houston.  He had pitched 14 shutouts and 5 no-hitters as a senior.  As a result, Texas Rangers’ owner Bob Short not only drafted the teen, but sent him right to the top of the hill in the majors.  That foolish move resulted in a few quick bucks for the Rangers’ coffers but didn’t do Clyde any good.  His career was a brief one.  In the last few days, a high school hitter did something which is in its way more amazing than David Clyde’s 14 shutouts and 5 no-hitters. Luke Borer, a junior at Perrysburg, Ohio high school managed to hit 4 home runs in a game.  Add to that the fact that his 4 jolts were a solo shot, a 2-run jack, another for 3 runs and the daddy of them all, a grand slammer.  That’s 10 RBIS on 4 swings. 

 No major league hitter, from Ruth and Gehrig to Harper and Trout has hit for the mythical “home run cycle” as described above.  Gehrig hit 4 home runs in a game in Philadelphia and came close to hitting 5.  The longest, deepest shot he hit all that day was caught by Al Simmons.                          Other big leaguers have hit 4 bombs in a game, and the way the game is played now it could become a more regular event.  But to do what Borer did at the high school level is against odds it would take a math whiz from Harvard to compute.  Just for starters, if his team had gotten ahead by 10 runs the game would have ended under the mercy rule.  As it was, Perrysburg needed all of Borer’s belts to best their foe 22–14 on April 15. Borer taxed the opponent’s pitcher with a home run with the bases clear the first time he came up.  Next time around, two men were on when he launched one out of the lot. The 4th time he came up, just one man was abase when Borer struck for the third time.  Next time up, the bags were drunk when Borer drilled one out of sight for a 4-run 4-bagger. He had one more shot, again with men on every base but this last gasp resulted in a pop fly out. He told the sports writer for the Toledo Blade how he’d never hit a high school home run. 

A couple of major leaguers in recent years have had chances at the “home run cycle.”  In 2005, before steroids tainted his name and reputation, Alex Rodriguez had jolted 3 jacks off Bartolo Colon in the first 4 innings of a game against the Angels. He never got the solo blast that would have completed the set. That was the year he led the league in dingers, something no Yankee had done since 1980 when Reggie Jackson pulled it off. In June 2017, the Reds’ Scooter Gennett hit 4 bombs but none was a 3-run shot.  Heaven only knows if Luke Borer will be drafted in 2020 and we certainly have no clue if the bigs are in his future.  Whatever he does down the line, he had a night he’ll never forget. 

Fans in New York are never averse to a good scrap, whether it’s in the ring at Madison Square Garden or on the baseball fields of their beloved teams.  The Mets and Phillies may give the fans a little extra for their dollar tonight.  The Phillies have lost 5 out of 6 including a 9–0 mauling last night by the Mets.  It appeared they felt the Mets had gone too far when reliever Jacob Rhame buzzed the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins. The offended hitter initially started toward the hill, then thought better of it.  In this way he prevented any extracurricular action last night.  But that wasn’t a promise that the Phillies might not send a message to any of the Mets. While the fans would love to see that, I hope it doesn’t happen.  The Phillies should know that Rhame is a mopup man in the Mets’ bull pen for a good reason.  His relationship with the strike zone and knowledge of where it is are both in question.  This isn’t like Jacob DeGrom buzzing somebody.  If he or Noah Syndergaard did it, they’d be sending a message.  Rhame probably had little clue where his pitches were going.

Before the Hoskins incident, the Mets’ Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil had been hit by Phillies’ pitchers during the first two games of the series. Off and on these two teams have been rivals going back to a game in 1990 when Dwight Gooden charged the hill after getting his hair rearranged by the Phillies’ Pat Combs. Tonight, Vince Velasquez of the Phillies takes on Jason Vargas, another erratic hurler at best. He only lasted 4 innings when he pitched on Friday, leaving the game to a shaky Mets’ bull pen.

Across the country, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia might be able to reach 3,000 strikeouts near his home town of Vallejo, California. If he reaches 3,000 he will be the third lefty to do so.  Randy Johnson finished with more than 4800 whiffs while Steve Carlton had over 4100 K’s to his name.  Among all pitchers, Sabathia is 17th, needing 90 K’s to pass John Smoltz. The Yankees have taken the first 2 of a 4-game series against the Angels in Anaheim.  Monday night it was a 4–3 14-inning tussle.  Last night they were ahead 7–1 thanks to a pair of home runs by Luke Voit.  The bull pen nearly threw it all away, but the Yankees finished with a 7–5 win.  Sabathia, coming off heart surgery can hardly be expected to go past 5 innings in any game, and the bull pen that should have been the Yankees’ salvation has instead proven to be its Achilles heel.                 

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