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New York Nine Win East Coast Championships at Baseball Heaven

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The New York Nine Scout Team ended the 2017 summer season in grand fashion winning the Blue Chips East Coast Championship at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank, Long Island. In their final three Baseball Heaven tournaments, the Scout team went on an incredible 17 game winning streak, finishing those tournaments at 6-0,6-0 and 5-0 respectively.

The tournament opener saw the Nine face the Long Island Titans (who finished the tournament 3-1), beating them by a 6-2 score. In the first inning, Danny Alfonzo was hit by a pitch for the 11th time this summer, which is a new Nine record (the previous record held by Ricardo Espinosa, stood since 2006). With two on, Carlos De La Cruz took an 0-1 fastball and drove it out of the park. The very next batter, Oliver Fernandez, went back to back, hitting his first home run of the summer. With the score cut to 4-2, in the 6th inning, Danny Perez hit the longest home run of the summer, which scouts in attendance said would have landed in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium. The very next batter, one Carlos De La Cruz hit his second home run of the game putting the Nine comfortably ahead 6-2, where the game finished. Austin Cole fanned four in his final start for the Nine, while Matt Demartini pitched a perfect 2 2/3, striking out four in the win.

In game two of pool play, the Nine faced a tough New York Grays team and their hard throwing righthander John Rodriguez. Daniel Alfonzo opened the scoring in the top of the first inning hitting a missile into the left centerfield trees plating Freddy Rojas for a quick 2-0 lead. The Grays quickly tied the game in the bottom of the first on a two out, two run single and took the lead in the second, 3-2. After an Alfonzo leadoff double and a Danny Perez walk, Carlos De La Cruz singled to center plating Alfonzo. Perez scored when JP Compres reached on an error. In the fourth inning, Shawn Harrison led off with a walk and forced at second on a Preston Milano groundout. Angel Presinal singled to push Milano to 2rd and Alfonzo singled on a fly ball to right to score Milano. Perez then hit a long double to center field to score Presinal and Alfonzo, giving the Nine three runs in the frame. The Grays cut the lead to 7-4 in the fourth and the Nine completed their scoring on a Jesse Spellman single, Harrison walk, Presinal RBI single, Rojas walk and an Alfonzo RBI groundout. Anthony “Ace” Costa was superb considering the lack of strike zone, tossing a CG and striking out 6.

Having already clinched their pool, the Nine played an early Sunday morning contest against the CGI Braves out of Long Island. DJ Flug got the start striking out four, allowing two hits and no runs. Eury DeJesus fanned two in his inning of work, and Mario Medina worked a perfect inning striking out a batter. The Nine once again jumped on the board early as Carlos De La Cruz, who you may have heard of by now, hit another three-run homer. In the second, Shawn Harrison, Elvis Torres, Nick Hernandez and Angel Presinal all walked to start the inning. Freddy Rojas scored Elvis Torres on an RBI and Danny Alfonzo‘s sac fly scored Hernandez. Carlos De La Cruz reached on an error, scoring Presinal, leaking the Nine out to a quick 7-0 lead. The bottom of the third saw more of the same as a Nick Hernandez walk plated Jesse Spellman and a Presinal ground ball single to center scored two. Danny Alfonzo added an RBI on yet another HBP. With this win the Nine moved into the quarter finals as the 4th seed.

On a drizzly, rainy day, the first game of the playoffs saw the Nine take on the fifth seeded Freedom Baseball out of Long Island. Starter Wellington Belen was solid, fanning five in five plus innings while giving up three hits. In the top of the sixth, after a walk and double chased Belen, Freddy Rojas got consecutive ground outs to Shawn Harrison, who did not convert either out at the plate and Freedom ended their inning up by two. Mike Garcia held the game where it was with a perfect seventh setting the stage for one of the greatest moments in Nine history. With one out Carlos De La Cruz singled on a line drive to left, followed by a Rojas flyout to left. With an 0-1 count, pinch hitter Jesse Spellman did this:

What is unclear in the video is the leaping attempt by the left fielder to rob him of a home run. This is similar to the final play of the 2016 season where Oakland Athletic draftee, Nate Webb put a bases loaded fastball over the centerfield wall in Charleston, South Carolina only to have it brought back. Fortunes would be different this time as Spellman’s shot caromed off of the glove of the left fielder falling over the fence for a home run, tying the game at 2. With score still knotted at two in the 9th inning, the bases were loaded with one out. Reliever Brayan Garcia punched out two consecutive hitters with fastballs in low 90s to get out of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, with the bases loaded, Angel Presinal hit a fly ball over the left fielders head scoring pinch runner, Braulio Melo to push the Nine into the semifinals vs. the Body Armor Titans, the tournament’s number one seed who had not allowed a run all tournament.

That streak ended quickly as Francisco Soriano lasered a 3-1 fastball into the parking lot in right center giving the Nine a quick 1-0 lead. The Nine scored another run in the top of the second when Oliver Fernandez singled to right center, and when trying to throw out Jeremy Bueno, the center fielder threw the ball into the dugout, giving each player 2 bases. Starter Chris Pichardo battled the rain all game, allowing a run in the bottom of the second and another In the bottom of the third, when he escaped further danger by getting a shallow fly out to center, leaving the bases loaded. After a brief delay due to driving rain, the Nine came out swinging with a Danny Perez fly ball single followed by Elvis Torres running for Perez. Freddy Rojas lined a single to right and Jeremy Bueno‘s single to center plated Torres. Rojas scored on a Fernandez force out and Braulio Melo scored on a Shawn Harrison single, which was followed by a Leury Tejada single scoring Harrison. The Nine plated four runs in the frame giving them a 6-2 lead. In the bottom of the 5th, Body Armor cut the lead to 6-3 on a deep double to left. Chris Pichardo was incredible the rest of the way, with the hard fought complete game victory. The win was Pichardo’s 8th, a New York Nine record, and 14th victory in the past two seasons. This was also the Body Armor Titans second loss all summer. As the rains fell again the tournament was halted, and co-champions were declared. The Nine were the only five win club in the tournament and beat the number one seeded playoff club in the process. It was a fitting ending to a fantastic summer. The final record for the Scout team was an outstanding 33-9-3.

Tournament notes:

Angel Presinal led the team in batting average and OBP and had a line of .500/.588/.571
Carlos De La Cruz slugged 1.000 for the tournament with a team leading 3 home runs and 8 RBI
Shawn Harrison led the team in walks with 6 and had a .538 OBP
Danny Alfonzo set the Nine record for HBP in a season and got hit with 2 pitches this tournament. He hit .417/.500/.833 with a team leading 5 runs scored.
Oliver Fernandez slugged .889
Danny Perez hit .333/.500/.667 including the longest home run of the season, and his 3rd on the season
Anthony Costa led the team in strikeouts with 6 and had a 63.2% ground ball rate
Brayan Garcia struck out 75% of batters faced
Matt Demartini struck out 50% of batters faced
DJ Flug had a groundball rate of 71.4%
The Nine averaged 7 runs per game and hit .306/.437/.545 as a team
The Nine allowed an average of 2.2 runs per game and struck out 32 in 32.2 innings.