Steinert's explosive inning thumps Wall
When you take into account the collection of quality hitters that comprise its lineup and the combination of speed and deception it can spring on the bases, Steinert really isn’t in any position of need when it comes to assistance in run production.
But, that’s not to say the Spartans are above accepting charity. In fact, they generally waste no time expressing their gratitude when some is offered by displaying their quick sense of opportunism.
Maybe it was just the threat of that quickness that concerned Wall enough to make a point of keeping runners close to the bag. However, that interest ultimately proved its undoing as three errant pickoff throws helped Steinert, No. 10 in The MSG Varsity New Jersey rankings, immensely during a five-run outburst in the fifth that erased a deficit and sparked it to a 9-3 victory over No. 6 Wall on Tuesday in Wall.
“We just put people on base and we have a lot of speed,” said Steinert senior centerfielder James Locklear, who had a pair of RBI singles. “Maybe, they were worrying about that. They made a lot of pickoff tries.”
Wall was particularly intent on limiting Steinert’s running in the fifth while holding a 3-1 lead.
Ben Podgurski drew a leadoff walk, moved up a base after a single by John Mastrangelo and hustled to score from second base on errant pickoff attempt that went into center field.
Eddie Ashley legged out a bunt in front of Locklear, who blooped a run-scoring single down the left-field line. A desperate throw home to get the lead runner sailed wide of the plate which allowed a second run to cross to give Steinert a 4-3 edge.
Another pickoff try missed its mark and sailed down the right-field line to enable two more runs to score, increasing the advantage to 7-3.
By the time the half-inning was completed, Steinert had translated four uncharacteristic Wall errors (it had seven in the game), plus two walks and four hits, into a comfortable lead it never relinquished.
“We made too many errors in that one inning and we couldn’t shut the door,” said Wall coach Todd Schmitt. “The errors kept mounting up and then everyone tries to do too much and we start throwing the ball around. I’ve been playing Steinert long enough to know you can’t give them one extra out. “
Steinert (9-0) broke the game wide open with three more runs in the top of the sixth, keyed by a two-run double from Brock Podgurski. The senior shortstop has been on early-season tear with at least one extra-base hit.
“You see teams down in the early innings and there’s no life,” Podgurski said. “You have to be that catalyst who gets the team rolling. It doesn’t make sense not to play to the best of your ability every day.”
Wall (7-1) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Tyler Block and Alex Taylor each walked to open the frame against Steinert starter Matt Moticha and both eventually scored. A sacrifice bunt by selfless senior catcher Connor White set the table for Mitchell Preston, who lined an RBI single to left and the second run crossed on an error.
Carston Raab tripled and scored on a single by Matt Belardo to pare the deficit in half for Steinert in the fourth, but Wall got the run back in the bottom half on a run-scoring single from first baseman Luke Pasick.
Lost amid the flurry of runs was the strong pitching of junior starter Matt Moticha and relievers Jason Bowes and Chris Geraci, all three of whom made the most of their first appearances this season. The trio combined on a six-hitter.
Moticha recovered from his shaky start to toss four innings while Bowes counted on a nasty curveball to hurl two scoreless frames before Geraci stranded two runners in the seventh to close out the win.
“Our pitching staff did a fantastic job,” praised Brock Podgurski. “Not one of them had any varsity time and they helped the team out.”
“We’ve always taken the approach that whoever’s turn it is to pitch is going to pitch,” said Steinert coach Brian Giallella. “We don’t save guys. We have confidence in every guy we throw and we threw three guys out there but they earned it. They worked hard. They’ve been in our system and they know how to pitch.”
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner