Game day is finally here!
The boys wake up at 7AM - mandatory wake up time for the Hard 90 Clutch. Little do they know this consistent wake up time will help them later in the tournament.
After wake up, the boys made their bed, headed to the showers and then returned for a brief morning meeting to preview the day. They then headed out for breakfast to get some nourishment.
After breakfast, the boys headed over to the practice area for a morning practice. The team ran through pick sequences before taking some morning batting practice. After batting practice. the team met behind the cages to watch others take batting practice. The boys were evaluating each player taking batting practice to see if there was intent to do damage behind their swing. After reviewing about 20 opposing players, the team determined that only 2 out of 20 were swinging with intent. We discussed the need to make every pitch count. Make the decision to swing with intent before you get in the box - simplify the decision process - to only one decision - to not swing.
The boys grabbed some lunch and then had a bit of free time before the 1:45 game. Before heading out for the first game, the Clutch had a brief meeting to review the objectives for the first game. Game 1 featured a match up with the Fury - a tough team from Downers Grove, Il. The Hard 90 Clutch would be the home team sending Carter Gustafson to the mound.
The team had some butterflies heading out - but those quickly went away as Carter shut the team down in the first inning. In their half of the first, the Clutch put up 8 runs with two outs to take a commanding lead out of the gate.Ty Moran got the party started in the first inning with an opposite field home run - the first one of the tournament for the Clutch.
Carter was lights out - supported by stellar defense. Taylor Sutton also returned to the hill for the first time in 4 months tossing 2 scoreless frames. It was really cool to see how happy Taylor's teammates were that he was back on the mound.
The Clutch hit 3 home runs in the game. Ty had the first, while Jack and Taylor matched him with shots of their own. In game 1, the team also learned the importance of respecting the game and their opponent. Up 10 runs, the Clutch shut down the offensive attack entirely.
The final score of the game was 15-5. The team headed over to Maskot's (a pizza parlor across the street) for a quick bite to eat in between games. A magical site to see, as this fraternity all ate together and traded laughs about the prior game.
After a late lunch, the team returned to the barracks to prepare for game 2 with the Central Florida Pride - a tough team with sites on winning the entire tournament.
The game with Florida started off slow. The Florida team had thrown their ace - and he was going to be a tough match for the Clutch - his fastball was sitting in the low 70s and he had a sharp breaking hammer. This pitcher shut the Clutch down in the first and the Florida team jumped out to a quick two run lead in their half against Clutch ace, Ben Ransi.
After the first the game settled down and two ace pitchers served up out after out until the 5th inning when Florida put up 2 more runs to take what seemed to be a commanding 4 run lead into the top of the 6th.
The Hard 90 Clutch has never been afraid of a deficit - coming from behind several times all year to swipe a victory from the jaws of defeat. In fact one of the beauties of baseball is that everyone gets their turn - you cannot sit on your lead and run out the game clock - so heading into the 6th - the Clutch was focused - as this was the 3rd time through the order for many of the boys.
The inning started off with a walk and a strike out. An error by the pitcher (a sure double play ball) set the stage for Brady Rea to get the Clutch party started. On the very first pitch Brady saw, he put the ball over the right center field fence for a 3 run bomb. The game was now 4-3 in favor of the Florida team.
After another strike out, the Clutch sent Eric Erdmann to the plate for his 1st at bat of the game. After swinging and missing at the 1st pitch, Eric hit a rocket to the right center field fence for a single - keeping the Clutch’s chances alive.
On the next at bat, Nick Rodriguez advanced to first base on a dropped third strike setting the stage for Jack Spero. On the first pitch, Jack was ready to go - taking a vicious hack that he just missed under the ball. (Wow - we all saw the game changing home run that could have been.) After taking the next pitch for a ball, there was that vicious swing again - this time he connected for a 3 run home run to give the Clutch their first lead of the game 6-4.
After Jack’s home run, Jordan Walczykowski and Ben Ransi went back to back home runs - making 3 in a row for the Clutch. The Clutch put up 3 more runs making the game 11-4 heading into the bottom of the 6th.
The Florida team was not going away - the team scored 5 runs before Jack Spero was able to close the door in relief. This was the first of the emotional comebacks for the Clutch - as once again they snagged victory from the jaws of defeat. The game featured 4 home runs by Brady, Jack, Jordan and Ben - bringing the day's total to 7 round trippers.
After saying good night to their parents, the club headed back to the barracks for their post game meeting. In the post game meeting, the team individually and collectively reflected on their gratitude for the day. Without a doubt, the team was thankful for time with teammates, 2 wins, a handful of home runs and some bonding time at Maskot's.
What a day for the Clutch - 2-0 heading into day 4.
Established in 2005, Hard 90 Baseball has been traveling to Cooperstown each year. This is an amazing trip where players are able to truly enjoy "youth" baseball and through this process mature to get ready for high school. Hard 90 is currently forming high level teams for Cooperstown 2020 and Cooperstown 2021. Register your interest for our youth travel teams. Sign up today as spots are limited.