Shutout saves heavily armed Reds Scout Team
September 21, 2021 | Jeff Dahn
That figurative wind-like sound emanating from the top of the hill at the Prospect Meadows Sports Complex Saturday afternoon was a collective sigh of relief emitted from the formidable Reds Scout Team. It often accompanies the feeling a highly regarded team has when it faces the fact that it had just dodged one really fast-moving bullet.
The Cincinnati-based Reds Scout Team, armed with an uber-talented roster assembled with a big assist from the big-league Reds scouting staff, needed two things to happen in their second and final pool-play game Saturday at the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship in order to advance to Sunday’s bracket-play.
Most importantly, their pitchers had a throw a shutout at the Nebraska Prospect Scout 2023s because if that didn’t happen the Reds were dead in their tracks. And even if it happened, their offense needed to score at least four runs to claim the pool championship on tie-breaker criteria over the Illinois Indians, who had battled to a 1-1 tie with the Reds Scout Saturday morning to finish pool-play at 1-0-1 with a 4-1 run differential.
So with the eyes of dozens of scouts and college coaches locked directly upon them, the Reds ST got their offense in gear while four pitchers combined on a six-inning one-hitter that led to a decisive 8-0 victory over the Nebraska outfit and a spot in the Kernels Championship 28-team playoff bracket.
“I’m really proud of the kids,” Reds Scout Team head coach Andy Stack said postgame. “We’ve had our struggles here to start the (fall)…but it’s good to see them kind of start to figure things out, come together and take some more team at-bats.
“You get into a situation like this, obviously you look at our commitments and our roster and we’re very talented. As they’ve learned, they need to play for the team in some spots rather than taking selfish at-bats.”
Yes, this is a team with an official roster that features no fewer than 18 D-I commits to schools from the ACC (Georgia Tech, Louisville, Notre Dame), Big Ten (Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota), SEC (Kentucky, South Carolina) and other top baseball leagues.
But that means little to an opponent at a tournament like the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship, where the team that takes home the title also receives a paid entry to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., early next month.
Nothing is given to anyone, not even a team that many considered the pre-tournament favorite and a program that has won three previous WWBA Kernels Foundation championships. And this Reds Scout Team, even with all of its D-I firepower, learned that lesson right out of the gate against the Mount Prospect-based Illinois Indians.
The Indians opened play with a 3-0 win over the Nebraska Prospects Scout 2023s on Friday and came into Saturday morning’s contest against the Reds Scout feeling good about their unheralded pitching staff.
Even with that, Indians head coach Adam O’Malley probably wasn’t expecting to get the kind of performance out of unranked, uncommitted 2022 left-hander Gavin Sitarz that he received on this sunny, cool and comfortable late summer morning.
Sitarz held the Reds scoreless on one hit – a second inning single from Kristofer Hokenson – over 5 2/3 innings of work, striking out 11 and walking one.
O’Malley doesn’t understand why the 6-foot, 160-pounder hasn’t received more attention from college coaches, although he certainly helped his case while dozens of them looked on Saturday.
“Gavin Sitarz has everything you look for,” he said. “He’s physical, he’s a left-handed pitcher, three pitches for strikes; curveball on any count, and he’s still kind of waiting around.”
The Indians scored an unearned run in the top of the fifth to take a 1-0 lead. The Reds weren’t able to knot it up until Estevan Moreno got plunked by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the seventh and eventually scored on a sac fly from Matt Klein.
Stack used four pitchers in the game, who combined on an 11-strikeout three-hitter, walking five. 2023 right-hander Cole Selvig (No. 86-ranked, Texas commit) got the start, followed by ’22 lefties Wyatt Danilowicz (No. 408, Louisville) and Christian Oppor (t-500) and finally ’22 right-hander Tyler Deleskiewicz (t-1000, UW-Milwaukee); Danilowicz recorded five strikeouts in his two innings of work.
“Our pitchers feed off of each other,” top 2023 right-hander Zander Mueth, who had leading role in the win later in the day, told PG. “We all have good relationships with each other and we all think we have the best pitchers in the country rotation-wise…So we feed off of each other, we feed off of the energy that we bring to start the game; it’s just a good environment with the pitchers.”
The tie was deflating but not defeating for the Reds Scout Team. Digging in against the Nebraska Prospects Scout, they scored a single run in the top of second to take the early lead, added three in the fourth, one in the fifth and finally three more in the sixth to salt away the win.
After being held to three hits in their opener, the Reds Scout collected 11 in this 8-0 win. Luke Adams slugged a solo home run in the fourth and added a sac fly in the fifth; Brett Denby singled three times and scored twice; Shai Robinson doubled, singled, drove in two runs and scored another; Brady Small singled with an RBI and a run scored.
“Our team came out a little flat early on today,” Adams said. “We faced a pretty good lefty – he was a little bit crafty – so this next game we saw a righty and we were just taking better team at-bats. We were swinging and hitting balls to the gaps and we came up and won the game.”
Small, an uncommitted 2022 top-500 outfielder/first baseman, played both games Saturday noticeably hobbled by a hamstring pull he suffered while running the 60 at a showcase two weeks ago. He reached base twice in the second game with a single and a hit-by-pitch which required a lot of running, and he was even able to score from third running with a noticeable limp from third on a passed ball.
“It was way worse last week; this week I was just going to work through it and see what happens,” Small said. “I’m going to put in as much effort as I can and take it to my max and just go from there…We want everything; we want it all. I could easily have just stayed home and rested it but I want to be out here and play.”
And Small knew he wasn’t alone when it came to doing what was necessary to right the ship on the offensive side: “There was a lot of determination,” he said. “We kind of had a talk like, hey, this is what we’re doing wrong. We’ve got to take team approaches, hit it to the (opposite) field and just slow the game down a little bit.”
As fun as it was getting all those hits and scoring all those runs, it would have all gone for naught if the Reds Scout pitchers couldn’t produce a shutout. And once again Stack used four talented arms to get the job done.
2022 right-hander Aj Izzi (t-500, Wichita State) got the start and was nearly flawless, working the first two no-hit, two-strikeout shutout frames; Zander Mueth (No. 9, Ole Miss), the highly regarded 2023 righty, surrendered a lead-off fourth inning double to Nick Venteicher for Nebraska Prospect Scout’s only hit but also struck-out five in his two scoreless innings.
2022 righty Brayden Risedorph (No. 152, Parkland College) and ’22 lefty Aaron Blum (No. 325, Kentucky) threw an inning apiece without allowing a hit or a run and Blum struck-out all three batters he faced. It all amounted to poetry in motion from the pitchers’ mound.
“We wanted to keep the hits down and leave people off the bases,” Mueth said. “I gave up that double and (the runner) got third base with one out and I knew I had to lock it in from there; I knew I couldn’t miss my spots. I got out of it luckily and gave up zero runs so now we get to advance to tomorrow.”
Added Adams: “We just wanted to make it to the next game. We’re trying to move on game after game and try to get wins.”
This Reds Scout Team roster looks a little different from Stack’s Reds Midwest Scout Team rosters of the past in that it includes a half-dozen juniors (class of 2023). They’re good ones, too, led by the right-hander Mueth and middle-infielders Denby (No. 116, Georgia) and Cal Fisher (No. 140, Notre Dame).
Stack, a Cincinnati Reds area scouting supervisor, explained that the Reds’ scouting department has become a little more involved with the construction of the roster and wanted to build the program out with the future in mind.
“We do it to kind of get know the kids for the draft,” he said. “When you can’t get all the best ‘22s the idea we had was, OK, let’s go get some of the better ‘23s a year ahead. And honestly, some of these ‘23s are some of our better guys.”
The 28-team playoffs begin Sunday with the top-four seeds receiving byes directly into the round of 16 Stack likes where the team is sitting, especially with pitchers David Lally (No. 82, Notre Dame) and Noah Samol (No. 195, Georgia Tech) still available. Considering none of the eight pitchers he used Saturday worked more than two innings, they could be available on Sunday, too.
“That game there (vs. Nebraska Prospects) I think got us going,” Stack said. “I really think we’re going good now and we’ll hopefully come out and play like that (Sunday) against a team we’ve got to beat or go home.”