PORTAGE – It’s been a while since the Long Island Astros have played in the AAABA Tournament, and their return to Johnstown has been successful to say the least.
With the Astros’ 11-2 win over the New Brunswick Matrix on Wednesday, New York City advances to Thursday’s single elimination tournament as the No. 1 seed out of Pool B.
New York City, which earned the first seed on a tiebreaker, will advance along with New Brunswick, with both teams sporting 2-1 records.
“This feels great, we’ve come a long way,” New York City manager Al Delia said. “It’s great to know we’re playing another day. We’ve worked very hard and I feel we earned this opportunity.”
The Astros were headlined by starting pitcher C.J. Owens, who held New Brunswick to two unearned runs in 82/3 innings of work, after the Matrix scored 23 total runs in their first two games.
The 21-year-old right hander from SUNY Purchase College scattered seven hits, allowed one walk and struck out five on 128 pitches.
Owens’ lone walk allowed didn’t occur until one out in the ninth inning.
“I was able to mix my pitches up well and get ahead in a lot of counts today,” Owens said.
“I didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, but my defense was there and we made great plays. It was a good job all around by the team.”
Owens was removed with two outs in the ninth inning after allowing an RBI single by Justin Scotto. Ryan Martin was brought in and induced a fly out to center to end the game.
“Yeah, there was no doubt I wanted to finish the game,” Owens said, “and it (stinks) I wasn’t able to, but (Martin) picked me up. That’s all you can ask for.”
Behind Owens, the Astro offense pounded out 15 hits. All nine players in the lineup had at least one hit. Four players had multiple hits, led by Dylan Flynn and Domenick Castiglione with three apiece.
Castiglione finished a home run short of the cycle, boasting an RBI double and a three-run triple in the eighth inning that blew the game open.
“I just tried to put the ball in play and get the barrel to it as best I could,” Castiglione said.
“That’s what I do best.
“Our team did it all at the plate today, putting the ball in play and moving runners over. If we keep on hitting and doing our thing, we’ll be alright.”
The Astros scored three runs in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings to help pad their lead, and was also helped by four Matrix errors in the field, leading to six of their runs.
“We didn’t do our job today in the field,” New Brunswick manager Glenn Fredricks said. “We have to clean it up and let this one go.
“As for our hitting, they sent a guy to the mound that was throwing all kinds of pitches and mixing up speeds, and we didn’t make a single adjustment in nine innings. I have to give (Owens) all the credit, he pitched a great game.”
Despite the loss, Fredricks is considering it a blessing in disguise for the Matrix.
“In the first three years of pool play, we were 9-0. We were 11-0 coming into today, and we took a loss,” Fredricks said. “In the past three years, being 3-0 in pool play got us nothing.
“Maybe this will change our fortunes a little bit.”