PORTAGE – After leading by four runs through four innings, the Brooklyn SAYO Grays looked to be in control of the Columbus TNT Knights during the AAABA Tournament’s opening day on Monday afternoon.
However, one hit, a fifth-inning solo home run from Knights outfielder Ty Helmke, swung the momentum in Columbus’ favor and changed the entire complexion of the game.
Following the blast, Columbus scored 16 more unanswered runs over the final three frames to coast to a 20-7 victory in eight innings.
“I was just telling them not to ride the waves, it’s a long ballgame,” Columbus manger Danny LePara said.
“We just had to keep playing, no matter if we were down or up, we just had to stay in the moment. We did our best to win innings as the game progressed, and it worked out for us because we had great two-strike approaches.”
The Knights pounded out 13 hits, as four players drove in three runs apiece. Along with Helmke, Sebastian Silva and Zade Fusselman each hit homers.
Silva’s came in the first inning to open the game’s scoring, while Fusselman launched a two-run shot in the sixth during the Knights’ first rally.
Columbus sent 16 batters to the plate to score nine runs on seven hits in the sixth inning before tallying seven more in the eighth to put the mercy rule into effect.
Helmke, Silva and Fusselman each had two hits and scored three runs for the Knights. Braydon Carter went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot.
“The guys had very good approaches and were very aggressive at the plate,” LePara said. “We tried to stay out of two-strike counts, but when we got in them, like I said we had great approaches and just kept fighting.
“Throughout the lineup we did that, all nine guys did a solid job today.”
Brooklyn got on top of Columbus pitcher Dimitri Boumis early in the contest. Clarence Givhans, who led the Grays with five RBIs, hit a three-run home run to put Brooklyn in front 4-3 in the third. The Grays tallied three more runs on four hits in the fourth inning to go up 7-3.
But, as much as LePara hesitated to move forward with Boumis, his pitcher asked to remain in the game.
“He kept saying, ‘One more, one more,’” LePera said. “I’m not going to argue with a pitcher that has that type of confidence in himself. A couple of his runs were tough runs. But, I know him and I trust him. That’s why I left him go.”
For the final four innings, Boumis did not allow a hit. Only two Grays hitters reached base via a walk and an error.
Boumis tossed all eight innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on eight hits while walking three and striking out eight.
“I was honestly surprised myself,” Brooklyn manager Eddie Pagan said.
“Early on, we were carrying so much energy, then after they (Helmke) hit the home run, everything fell off. Columbus is a great team. They have the chemistry and the motto to never give up, that’s why they deserved to win the game. That happens, that’s baseball.”
Columbus moves into Tuesday with a 1-0 record in Pool A and will face New Orleans at Forest Hills High School at noon. Brooklyn takes on Martella’s at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point, also a noon start.
LePara knows his squad will be in for a tough matchup, as the Boosters were 12-2 victors in seven innings over Martella’s, but remains confident in is lineup.
“We just have to stick with our same game plan: Play hard and just stay in the moment,” LePara said. “We have to continue to win innings and execute the best we can.”
Pagan said there will be changes to his team’s lineup on Tuesday, but feels the Grays will bounce back.
“We’re going to move around a couple guys in the infield and outfield, hopefully that will work as we adjust,” Pagan said. “We just have to keep carrying on our energy, that’s what we’re best at.”