Aviators strike late to break even with Bell Ringers in BCP pool play


By Bob Behre

Jake Lacetera delivered Tommy Secaira on a sac fly in the bottom of the sixth inning to secure for the East End Aviators a 3-3 tie with the Bell Ringers in the Long Island team’s final game of pool play in the 18U Blue Chip Prospect tournament at Diamond Nation on Wednesday.

Secaira and Jason Andujar, the Aviators Nos. 2 and 3 hitters, opened the sixth with back-to-back singles to set the wheels in motion for a bit of run manufacturing with the Aviators trailing 3-2. “We were thinking about doing a little funny business on the basepaths with the rain coming down,” said Aviators coach Mike Herbst. “But we decided to let our guys hit.”

Joshuel Rodriguez (in photo) moved both runners into scoring position with a perfect sacrifice bunt down the right side, then Lacetera stepped in and jumped on a fastball on the outer half and drove it hard to right field. Luke Piontek was there to make the catch but his throw home was wide of the plate as Secaira charged home with the tying run.

The Bell Ringers’ Joey Ventresca walked Jack Bachmore and Andujar took third on a wild pitch during that at bat. But, with the winning run 90 feet away, the Monmouth University-bound Ventresca induced a comebacker to end the game at 3-3.

“We weren’t advancing in the tournament, so I figured let our guys hit instead of getting cute,” said Herbst. “We finished 1-2-1 but lost a couple close ones, 4-3 and 2-0, that were the difference in not making the playoffs.”

The Bell Ringers came into the contest at 2-0, so the tie was much better than a loss and kept the Philadelphia squad in the playoff hunt with a game remaining in pool play against Wladyka Continental at 8 a.m. on Thursday. That winner will likely win that five-team pool and advance to the playoffs. The Blue Chip Prospect playoffs begin at 8 a.m. on Friday with championships awarded later in the afternoon in five brackets. There are 105 teams competing in the tournament.

The Bell Ringers had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth on Mark McNally’s hard two-out single to center field. Matt Sheperd triggered the rally with a one-out double to left field. Tyler Rickel and Joey Pettinelli each drew a walk to load the bases. The Aviators got out of further trouble when shortstop Piontek initiated a 6-4-3 double play.

The Aviators rallied with two outs and the bases empty to produce a run in the fifth that tied the game at 2-2. Jack Pirkl and Peter Baratta beat out ground balls to the left side for infield singles before Alex Doskoez drew a walk to load the bases. Then, with leadoff batter Mike McCormick at the plate, the Aviators pulled off a double steal as Pirkl crossed home plate with the tying run.

The Bell Ringers scored twice in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. Evan Bruder drew a one-out walk before Sheperd and Rickel hit back-to-back fly balls to left field that were lost in the sun, setting up the Bell Ringers with the bases loaded. Bruder scored the tying run on a wild pitch and, after Pettinelli walked to re-load the bases, McNally hit a sac fly to center field to score Sheperd.

The Aviators broke through for a run in the bottom of the first on Rodriguez’s two-out RBI single through the middle. McCormick had led off with a single but was caught stealing. Secaira drew a walk, reached second on Andujar’s fielder’s choice grounder and raced home on Rodriguez’s single.

“It was a good tournament,” said Herbst. “We saw some good arms but we had some bad bounces go against us.”

NOTE: Jason Andujar, a rising senior outfielder at Bay Shore High School in Long Island, is the son of former major league Joaquin Andujar. Jason’s dad was an outstanding major leaguer, posting a 127-118 record and a 3.58 ERA over 14 major league seasons (1976-’88) with Houston, St. Louis and Oakland. He was a four-time All-Star, won 20 games twice, a Gold Glove and won Game 7 of the 1982 World Series when his Cardinals defeated Milwaukee for the championship. Joaquin Andujar died in 2015 at the age of 62 due to complications from diabetes.