2014 UA Game Recap (Innings 7-9)
Through six innings of play, the National team held tight to a one run lead. After a slow start, Josh Naylor and Ryan Mountcastle got the National offense going with back to back two out doubles to scratch the first run of the game.
The American team had a runner reach third base in both the first and fourth innings, but they were unable to plate the run in either case.
Things appear to be trending the Americans way, even though they are down going into the seventh. They’ve only struck out four times in eighteen outs, while the Nationals have fallen victim to the strikeout twice in every inning except the fourth – the inning in which they scored.
6-foot-5 Texan Cole McKay took the mound to begin the seventh inning of play. The big right hander worked 88-91 mph with his fastball, and featured a curve and change both in the upper 70s.
Like large framed lefty Justin Hooper, McKay (pronounced MICK-EYE) worked from an angle a little lower and more deceiving than often seen. His delivery and arm stroke were both on the compact side, but served him well to generate a solid three pitch mix.
LT Tolbert entered for Ke’Bryan Hayes in the fifth defensively, with his first plate appearance coming to lead off the seventh. He blooped a single to left, and made an aggressive turn around the bag at first. A very brief hesitation upon making the read would cost him (one of the mnemonic devices we use for Baseball Factory base running rule #3 – and hopefully those that have been to one of our Player Development events know this – is “HESITATE and you’re too late”), as Ryan Mountcastle was able to spin and throw him out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double.
What always seems to follow a failed attempt to take an extra base? Yep, you guessed it – a base hit. Kyler Murray broke his bat, but was able to get a soft liner into the outfield grass for a single in his second at bat.
With Devin Davis at the plate, Murray stole second base to get into scoring position. Davis got some fastballs to hit, but went down swinging on a 91 mph fastball away from McKay.
With two outs, Brendan Rodgers came to the plate with Murray still at second base. Though it worked out this time, another base running rule was broken when Murray stole third base with two outs. It was a close play, but Murray is an exciting and dynamic talent, and he was now standing at third base with two outs and Rodgers at the plate.
Rodgers walked, to setup a first and third situation with two outs and Alonzo Jones Jr. coming to the plate. He stood in left handed against the right hander McKay, again prompting hundreds of stop watches in the ballpark to the immediate ready position. Like he did in his first left handed at bat, he reached out over the plate and made an armsy stroke – this time on a 79 mph breaking ball – for a soft fly ball to left field to end the inning.
6-foot-6 right hander Bryan Hoeing came out for the bottom of the seventh. He is a dynamic athlete, the kind of athlete baseball needs to keep. He chose baseball over what appeared to be an elite Division I basketball future, and uses his athletic ability to repeat his delivery and command his three pitch mix. Only the fastball and curve came out in this outing, he made quick work of the three hitters he faced – on my chart, he had the lowest pitch count of the night.
Ryan Mountcastle made yet another good pass at at fastball for solid contact, and again he fell victim to a fine defensive play. Alonzo Jones Jr. ranged to his right up the middle, made a nice backhand play and then fired off balance and falling away to retire Mountcastle for the first out of the inning.
Hoeing’s fastball has good arm side run, and he was able to get it in on Nicholas Shumpert’s hands for kind of a soft jam shot to Jones at second base. He came in hard on the slow roller, but it got under his glove and reached the outfield grass in shallow right field. Shumpert was running hard all the way, and was able to advance to second base with one out.
The first pitch to Corey Zangari, in for Wyatt Cross in the seventh spot in the order, was a breaking ball in the dirt for ball one. Justin Cohen went down to block it, and made a strong throw behind Shumpert at second base to retire him for the second out of the inning. The ball actually went directly into Cohen’s glove off the bounce, and Shumpert took a single extra step – which was all the opening Cohen needed. On my card during the workout on Friday, Cohen had the best throwing arm on the field – so even if Shumpert did get back to the bag, he was still out.
Zangari went on to strikeout on a nasty breaking ball from Hoeing, who was impressive in his outing. His fastball had hard arm side run at 90-91 mph, and his breaking ball had depth in the mid to upper 70s.
Anthony Molina, the first underclassmen arm we’ve had in the game since Brady Aiken, took the mound in the top of the eighth. The long and lean junior topped at 92 and pitched around 90 with his fastball. He spun a softer curve with good shape in the low 70s, and showed feel for a low to mid 70s change.
Fellow underclassmen Seth Beer greeted him to leadoff the inning, and for a while it looked like he homered to dead center field. Beer made a great pass at an 88 mph fastball, and the ball carried a long way, only to fall short near the warning track for the first out of the inning.
Luken Baker kept his hands back on a 72 mph first pitch breaking ball for a sharp single to center field, offering proof that he’s got hitting ability in addition to the near top of the scale raw power he showed in the home run derby before the game.
Demi Orimoloye stood in next with one out. Cal Raleigh had some trouble with a breaking ball from Molina, allowing Baker to advance to second on a passed ball. Kyle Tucker pinch ran for Baker, and almost immediately scored on a line drive RBI single to left from Demi Orimoloye. Orimoloye wasted no time in getting the go ahead run into scoring position by stealing second base. Cal Raleigh made a strong throw, but Orimoloye got in clearly ahead of it.
Justin Cohen drove another ball to the opposite field warning track, this time putting a good pass on a 90 mph fastball for a deep drive slightly towards the right center gap – and as he did in the sixth inning in right field, Kyle Dean again ran down Cohen’s drive (only this time in center field). Orimoloye advanced to third base with two outs, bringing LT Tolbert to the plate. Tolbert kept his hands back on a good change-up from Molina, and lined it off the glove of a diving Corey Zangari at first base to drive in another run, and put the the Americans up 2-1. This at bat from Tolbert was another example of a great job of staying back with the hands on an off speed pitch and delivering hard contact into the outfield grass – the first example came from Luken Baker a few hitters earlier.
In what was one of the more impressive displays of hitting in the entire game, Kyler Murray turned around a 90 mph fastball on the inner half for a laser beam line drive single to left field. His hands were lightning quick to contact, and he delivered the barrel through contact such that he kept the inside fastball fair instead of hooking it foul. It takes a combination of natural ability and feel for the barrel to pull that off, both hallmarks of highest level hitters, and clearly Murray has both.
Devin Davis made a great pass at a first pitch fastball, just missing it and fouling it right back to the screen. Molina got a breaking ball over for strike two, and then got Davis to swing through a 91 mph fastball away for strike three to end the inning.
Gray Fenter was the last scheduled arm for the Americans, and was slated to pitch both the eighth and ninth if necessary. He came out attacking with his fastball, challenging hitters in the zone with his best stuff. His delivery is athletic, his arm works well, and the ball sizzles from his hand. For me, he is similar to Beau Burrows in that manner – the radar gun says 91-92, but the hitters’ reactions tell us it gets on them much quicker than that. Though he didn’t use it that much, he’s also got an excellent curveball. He throws it in the 78-79 range with tight spin and sharp downward break.
After pitching the fourth inning, Austin Riley got his first at bat to leadoff the eighth. Fenter went right after him with high quality fastballs, and got a 92 mph heater by him on the inner half for a swinging strikeout. Cal Raleigh stood in next from the left side, his second at bat that way against a single right handed at bat, and made a good pass on a good 92 mph fastball for a groundout to Luken Baker, who was in for Devin Davis, at first base. With two outs, Kyle Dean bounced out to LT Tolbert, who moved from third base to shortstop, to end the inning.
If Gray Fenter stands out for his attacking style and quality stuff, Kyle Molnar stands out for a quality arsenal of his own along with an advanced feel for pitching. He took the mound in the top of the ninth with a clear objective – to hold the Americans at two runs to give his National squad a chance in the bottom half of the inning to tie or win it.
Molnar worked between 90 and 92 with his fastball, which he turned over for some sink action to go with good arm side run. He threw both a curve and slider, with the curve in the mid 70s with defined shape down and across the zone, while the slider had tighter and shorter action in the low 80s. He appeared throw a couple of change-ups as well, around 80, that he was able to turn over for action down in the zone. He showed feel for all of his pitches, the ability to change speeds, and was able to move the ball both ways – giving him numerous weapons with which to combat the highest level hitters.
Brendan Rodgers stood in first, and fouled a sinking fastball off his front foot – causing a brief delay as he walked it off. He nearly did it again on the next fastball he saw, it also ran in on his hands and he fouled it on the ground off towards the third base dugout. Molnar threw what looked like a slider with two strikes, but may have been a change-up with sinking action, that Rodgers grounded to Austin Riley at third base. Riley is a talented and capable infield defender, and he easily picked it up and fired across to retire Rodgers. Despite fouling a ball off his foot earlier in the at bat, Rodgers got down the line around 4.25.
Ke’Bryan Hayes re-entered the game in Alonzo Jones Jr.’s slot, and got the full force of Molnar’s stuff. He saw a 92 mph fastball, a filthy slider at 82 for a called strike, and then swung through a 76 mph curveball for strike three. Seth Beer stood in with two outs, and hit a high popup down the left field line. Austin Riley, in the game at third base since the seventh, ranged back and towards the stands to make a nice running catch on top of the plates in the left field bullpen to end the American ninth.
Gray Fenter came back out for the bottom of the ninth, looking to close it out for the visiting Americans. He brought the same bulldog approach to the mound with him, again primarily challenging hitters with his low 90s heater.
First to face him in his second frame was Starling Heredia. He was looking to tie it up with a single swing, and made a great pass early in the count to foul a fastball right back to the screen. The play of the day in the stands came on the next fastball, one that Heredia lined into the right field seats – only to find a young man with glove in perfect position to make the catch, no doubt saving the fans behind him. Fenter then buried a 79 mph breaking ball in the dirt to get Heredia swinging for the first out.
Ryan Johnson re-entered in his original slot, and bounced a 92 mph fastball up the middle. Alonzo Jones Jr. ranged to his right from second base, just as he did on Ryan Mountcastle’s ball in the seventh, but this time it took an extra step for him to get the grip and Johnson beat it out for an infield single – getting down the line around 4.35. Fenter painted a fastball down and on the outer edge for strike one to Josh Naylor, just as he did to Ryan Johnson before him. Naylor then just missed a good fastball up and away, and sent a Major League popup high to Seth Beer in left field for out number two.
Kody Clemens, as he’s done numerous times in national events, singled to left in a big situation. He got on top of a high and away fastball, and tomahawked it to left for a hard line drive single – putting the winning run on base, and moving the tying run to second base. Clemens has a proven feel for the game, and a knack for finding the barrel – both hallmarks of a gritty “baseball player” type.
Nicholas Shumpert now stood in with a chance to deliver for the National team with runners on base. He came out swinging, and Fenter kept attacking with fastballs. Shumpert swung through the first one, and fouled the second one he saw right back to the screen with an aggressive hack. Now in an 0-2 hole, Shumpert again got a fastball from Fenter and again swung through it, this time for strike three and the final out of the game.
For his two innings of work with the lead, Gray Fenter earned the save. Bryan Hoeing, who pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth after his team went up 2-1 in the top of the same inning, earned the win for the Americans. Anthony Molina took the loss for the Nationals, giving up two earned runs in the eighth inning.