Van Cortlandt Baseball League rules specify a minimum number of players for an official contest, and the Orioles were not able to muster the personnel to avoid a forfeit to last Saturday’s scheduled opponent, the City Knights.
But sometimes you just play for love of the game. The two teams took the field in Van Cortlandt Park, and the undermanned Orioles — augmented by their coach, Robert Montas — showed that, even shorthanded, they were a team to contend with, scoring five runs in the third inning on the way to a 6-0 four-inning shutout.
The teams compete in the league’s oldest division, with all players at least 17-years-old, and many college-aged or even older.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the top of the first inning but could not capitalize. Ja’von Collins stole second base after working out a walk against 19-year-old City Knight starter Sailyn Lopez, but, after loading the bases, a two-out fly ball got Lopez out of a jam.
In the Knights’ half of the first, Orioles pitcher Justin Gomez escaped a jam of him own, striking out the first batter, before letting Cheyenne Reyes, 19, and Jake Rios, 22, get on base and then retiring the next two hitters.
In the second, both teams went down in order, combining for three strikeouts.
The floodgates opened as the Orioles batted around in the third inning. The pesky Collins walked for a second time, Montas followed with a single to center and 23-year-old Victor Leroux blasted a three-run homer deep into left field, beyond the footpath surrounding the Parade Grounds.
Gomez doubled and advanced to third on a passed ball before scoring on a grounder hit by 19-year-old Rainiel Baez. Baez later scored off a hit by Josue Cabrera.
The Knights failed to launch a counterattack, as Gomez struck out the side in the bottom of the third.
In the top of the fourth and final inning, Gomez reached first and stole second base on a strikeout before a Knight error on a weak Joel Durans grounder allowed Gomez to score from second.
Stellar pitching by Gomez — who struck out two more in the bottom of the fourth — sealed the 6-0 victory for the Orioles.
The dearth of Orioles players forced a late start and an early ending to the unofficial game, since the league needed to ensure that time would be available for the remainder of the day’s official games.