Every once in a while there is a game at a WWBA event that is so good that it warrants a “wow, what a great game” from the baseball hardened PG staff.
Such was the case of the playoff game last night on EC Field 2 between the ABD Bulldogs and the Canes Orange. The final score was 6-1 for ABD in the tie-breaker, but the result was hardly a factor on the quality of the game.
Everyone knew the matchup had the potential to be a great one because of the two starting pitchers. Both were Aflac All-Americans with plenty of experience in games of this magnitude. And the scouts knew it too, as the area behind the backstop was packed overcapacity.
The Canes started RHP DeAndre Smelter, ABD sent RHP Peter Tago to the hill. Neither pitcher disappointed.
Smelter didn’t throw a pitch under 91 mph the entire game and topped out at 95.. That despite the fact that he was drilled in the knee by a ground ball off the bat of ABD leadoff hitter Travis Harrison (99 mph off the bat) in the first inning and had a visible limp for a few innings afterwards. The 6-4, 205 lb Smelter is one of the strongest and best athletes in the 2010 class and he shrugged it off without a problem.
Smelter only allowed 2 walks and 2 hits through 7 innings but it was the two walks that led to the only ABD run in regulation. He walked LF Max Homick and 3B Jake Middleton to open the 5th inning and after a sacrifice bunt by 2B Brett Harrison (no relation to Travis) moved the runners to second and third, Homick scored on a passed ball.
As well as Smelter pitched, he wouldn’t have escaped with allowing only 1 run without the help of his shortstop, Chad Pinder. Pinder made three incredible big league plays with runners in scoring position and two outs during the game, including a full diving stab of a Tony Wolters line drive to end the 5th inning.
Tago was less spectacular that Smelter but even more effective. Like Smelter, Tago is a primary fastball pitcher who sits in the low 90’s, topping out at 94. Despite his plus velocity, Tago rarely strikes out hitters. He works extremely quickly from a silky smooth delivery that lacks deception but enables him to spot his fastball with precision. Tago struck out only 1 batter (he only struck out 2 in 6 innings of an 18U playoff game last week) but worked ahead in counts to almost every hitter and kept all but one pitch off the sweet spot of the Canes’ bats. That one pitch was a high 0-2 fastball to Canes 3B Joey Cujos that drove over the centerfield fence in the third inning.
With the game tied 1-1 after 7 innings, the game went into the WWBA tie breaker, loading the bases and putting one out on the board.
Both Smelter and Tago, with very low pitch counts, stayed on the mound for their respective teams during the “shootout”.
ABD hit first as the visiting team.