Island Baseball: Home Opener

What a game it was in Staten Island for the home opener until the late innings where the defending champion, Williamsport Crosscutters exploded for three home runs and two by A.J. Johnson. However, Tommy John's crew got two fantastic pitching performances from two piggybacking starters. Pitcher, Jason Jones showed what he was all about on the mound in his professional debut as he dominated Williamsport for four innings. All this and much more in this edition of Island Baseball.

So, the end result of this game was not the greatest for the Baby Bombers but they did give hope near the end that yes, they could actually swing the bat. Of course they can hit but to the credit of the Crosscutter pitching staff, they were not able to really show it until the bottom of the ninth inning where they made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt at a comeback. Throughout the game though it was more so composed of missed opportunities more than anything else for Staten Island. But on the other hand, some credit has to be given to the fantastic starting effort of Williamsport starter, Matt Guillory who shut the Bombers down for five innings.

 

The game started off with the big talk being the starting pitcher for Staten Island, Jason Jones. It was implied that Jones got the ball for this game as he is most likely the most matured and polished pitcher on the staff. Jones proved his manager Tommy John correct in his decision to start him and went on to pitch an outstanding ballgame. Not only were the results good for Mr. Jones but he showed that he really knew how to pitch. Yeah, there are plenty of young pitchers with electric stuff that have a supposed "high ceiling" but how many can actually produce the way Jones did on Monday. Not very many. Consistently through the night, the young righty brought 92 MPH heat with excellent movement. Sounds all too familiar, right? But, Jason Jones has proven himself to be much more than a guy with great stuff. He is able to utilize his stuff with a great knack for pitching itself. For four innings, Jones stuck almost exclusively with his fastball, biting sinker and changeup. Under the tutelage of his manager, rather than using the five pitches that he does posses in his repertoire but becoming a master of none, he harnessed those three pitches and still dominated a game for four innings. But, despite his excellent performance, he would be held to a pitch count of only 75, much like a spring training game. Jones' final line for the game was four innings, no runs, two hits, no walks and four strikeouts. Needless to say, an impressive outing in his professional debut. He left the game with a lead but to the dismay of the Yankees, it did not end that way.

 

Crosscutters starting pitcher, Matt Guillory was also superb on Monday and even out did the Yankees starter, Jason Jones. In fact, he allowed them to only one hit in his five innings of work. Was it the Baby Bombers bats that were sleeping or was it pure dominance by the Crosscutter pitching though? Maybe a little bit of both in this case. Despite the weak hitting in the last two Yankees game in which they have scored only three runs combined, two coming in one half inning, the young bats appear to have a strong potential to heat up. But, hey, first baseman, Cody Ehlers doesn't seem to need any adjustment period at all. He has come out swinging in his first four games at the professional level and spearheaded his hot start with a huge game on Monday night against the Crosscutters. Ehlers has gotten off to a .308 start with four RBI. Two of those RBI came in the bottom of the ninth inning as he clubbed a two run double to bring Staten Island within one of Williamsport. That was his second of two doubles in the game. He was also robbed of a hit earlier in the game when Brett Holmes made a spectacular sliding catch in left field. In watching Ehlers swing the bat in these first four games, it is easy to say that this 11th round pick shows shades of Mark Grace with his short, crisp stroke. Of course, we'll have to wait and see.

 

Let's talk defense now. For a young team, boy did they show off some leather on Monday night. The defensive show case was started when the exciting Rod Allen came out of nowhere to make a tremendous diving catch in the right center field gap on a ball that looked like it was ticketed for extra bases. Allen also showed everyone that was there to see that he has a cannon for a right arm. While this was the only real defensive blunder of the ballgame for Staten Island, it gave us a look at what Allen could do. On a single to right field, he threw a seed to third base attempting to nail the runner. However, he allowed the batter to advance to second, That's what Tommy John will have to contend with; great tools with some fundamental teaching. Rafael Rodriguez also got in on the glove work as he made what could have been a game saving type catch. Rodriguez made a full extension snag diving towards the whole at second base. Rafael made a great play as did Allen but the shortstop, Grant Plumley showed us that he can flat out pick it. Plumley was a busy man at shortstop on Monday as he got ten opportunities to make plays. He made nine successfully and the one that wasn't may have been only to the fault of his great range. In a play deep in the whole, Plumley backhanded, turned and three off balance with a slightly errant throw. Now, for anyone that was watching, great play. But, if you look in the box scores, all you see is an error. Either way, the 9th round pick showed almost every facet of his fantastic defensive game. Coming in, ranging deep in the whole, throwing off balance, young name it and he did it on Monday night.

 

The defense was there as was the starting pitching but it was eventually a late inning relief effort that lost them the ballgame. Mike Knox came in for a strong relief effort but when Wilton Sevilla entered for the top of the ninth inning, any hopes of a comeback seemed to fade away. Sevilla gave up the second home run of the game for A.J. Johnson and then another one Wanell Macia in back-to-back fashion. So, when the Yankees did go for a comeback in the bottom of the inning, they ended up one run shot. They went on to lose by the final score of 3-2.

 

We saw lots of good things from the Baby Bombers on Monday and for the first couple games for that matter. "The wins will come" is something that can be said going by the talent the team has and once their strong pitching gets back to a normal schedule. With the defense they've displayed, starting pitching and awakening hitting, this could be the beginning of success for an excellent bunch of blossoming young ballplayers.


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