JOHNSTOWN – A pair of teams looking to bounce back from opening-day losses faced off Tuesday afternoon in AAABA Pool D action at Westmont Hilltop High School.
New Brunswick sent 11 batters to the plate and erupted for eight runs in the top of the sixth inning to open up a 9-0 lead, and the Matrix held off a late comeback attempt by Buffalo All In Sports to come away with an 11-7 victory.
“0-2 puts you in a huge hole, so we knew today was a must-win game,” said Matrix manager Glenn Fredricks. “No matter how it got done, beautiful baseball, ugly baseball, as long as we had more runs at the end of the game, it was going to be good for us.”
Runs were scarce through the first five innings, as the lone tally came on a solo home run by New Brunswick’s Gianni Marano during the third. The Matrix (1-1) looked to add to that advantage in the fifth with three straight two-out singles, but Marano was gunned down at the plate to end the frame while attempting to score on Brad Edwards’ hit.
New Brunswick took command one inning later. With one out, Walker Zampella reached on an error, and Andrew Schmid followed with a single to right field.
Kyle McSorely walked to load the bases, and Christian Petriello then lined a double to right field, bringing in Zampella and Schmid to make it 3-0.
That chased Buffalo starter Connor Desiderio, and reliever Dylan Moorhouse was greeted by Justin Scotto’s three-run homer to deep left field.
“Lately, I’ve been pull-happy, so this game I was trying to keep it simple and hit the gaps,” said Scotto, who finished with two hits and four RBIs for the Matrix.
“It felt like our whole team was doing that, and that’s how we were able to open up the game.”
Marano was then hit by a pitch before Steve Yellin reached on an error. Both runners moved up on a double steal and scored on Edwards’ single to center field.
Edwards stole second and moved to third when the throw skipped into center, and he came home on Frankie Sanchez’s run-scoring groundout to cap off the Matrix outburst and build a nine-run edge.
“We put some good swings on the ball and capitalized on their mistakes,” said Fredricks.
“That’s what you’ve got to do to win these types of ball games.
“Last night, we paid for our walks and hit batsmen, and if they’re going to make mistakes, we have to take advantage of them.”
Buffalo (0-2) didn’t go away quietly despite the daunting deficit. All In Sports rallied for three runs in the home half of the sixth on Mitch Floccare’s two-run single and Kyle Borrello’s RBI sacrifice fly. Buffalo added two more in the seventh after two down. Consecutive walks to Nolan Evans and Tyler Phillips were followed by Mike Stellrecht’s run-scoring single, and Phillips came home on an error, cutting the deficit to four.
Borrello then blasted a solo shot to center to pull Buffalo within 9-6 in the bottom of the eighth.
“I’m proud of how our guys stayed in the game,” Buffalo manager Tony Ballistrea said.
“We had mistakes that cost us a few runs, but you take away the errors and it’s a really close game. Our bats woke up, and we made it a competitive game.”
New Brunswick added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth highlighted by Scotto’s RBI single, and Buffalo set the final on Evan Reiman’s sacrifice fly.
Marano and Yellin each finished 3-for-5 for the Matrix, while Stellrecht had three of Buffalo’s nine hits.
The teams will complete pool play Wednesday as New Brunswick faces Altoona’s Cumming Motors at Mount Aloysius at noon, while Buffalo plays Johns- town’s Paul Carpenter in the feature night game at the Point.