For a team comprised solely of 13- and 14-year-olds, the Uptown Sports Complex Knights certainly looked composed on Monday in the 16-and-under Van Cortlandt Baseball League playoffs.
The Knights capitalized on the Twins’ early miscues and cruised to an 8-1 win in Game 1 of the semifinal round.
But, because of travel games last week, the Knights had to forfeit a prior playoff game in the double elimination tournament, and thus needed to beat the Twins twice in order to advance. The Twins earned a 5-1 win in the second game and will play for the division championship later this week.
In the first game, the Knights scored six first-inning runs, benefitting from three Twins’ errors, and 14-year-old Erubiel Candelario pitched a complete-game, allowing six hits and six walks but striking out five.
“It set the tone,” coach Allen Dillon said about the early runs. “They helped us out. It’s nice to be up 6-0 in the first inning. It takes the pressure off your players, especially the pitcher.”
Twins starter Christian Sepurbera did not record an out, as he walked the first two batters of the game and then gave up a two-run single to Alfredo Delgado.
After he hit JoJo Valera with a pitch, coach Adolfy Javier replaced him with Carlos Lima, who was bedeviled by three errors that allowed three more runs to score.
Candelario had a 1-2-3 first inning, then got out of a jam in the second, striking out Christian De La Rosa with runners on second and third with two outs.
He allowed his only run in the fourth inning, when Jacovie Rodriguez scored on Lima’s long double to right field. But Candelario settled back into a groove to close out the win.
“He pitched a great game,” Dillon said. “He had all of his pitches going and he was smart and kept them off balance and mixed up his pitches. It was very good pitching.”
Added Candelario: “I felt comfortable pitching, I just went out there and did what I had to do. I was just throwing how I throw.”
The Twins nearly scored in the sixth inning when Rodriguez was initially ruled safe at home because Knights catcher Jemel Betances was blocking the plate and gave him a slight shove when he tagged him. But after a short discussion, Rodriguez was ruled out.
Valera hit a two-run triple to right field in the top of the seventh inning to extend the Knights’ lead to 8-1. Valera and Delgado each had two hits and two RBIs, Adam Torres had a sacrifice fly and Randy Flores walked twice, singled, stole two bases and scored a run.
Despite the Twins being older than the Knights, Dillon felt as though his team had comparable playing experience.
“Our team is pretty experienced, too,” he said. “They’re 13- and 14-year-olds, but most of them play travel baseball. And that’s why we played up [an age division]. We played up an age group for the better competition.”