In a rematch of last year's RBI Baseball Mid-Atlantic Region tournament championship game, the Prince George's U-19 All-stars gained a measure of revenge by edging defending national champion Harrisburg, 3-2, at Jericho Park in Bowie on Friday afternoon.
Prince George's had opened the tournament with a 4-1 victory against Baltimore at Prince George's Stadium on Thursday evening, while Harrisburg, which edged Prince George's, 4-3, in last year's regional final in Pennsylvania, kicked off tournament play several hours earlier on Friday morning with a 12-2, five-inning victory over Durham (NC) at Lanham Sports Park.
Both Prince George's J.P. Bennaro and Harrisburg's John Brubaker were hooked in a scoreless pitcher's duel through four innings before Prince George's finally put two unearned runs on the board in the top of the fifth against Brubaker, who could not escape the inning. Dom DeBlaise reached on an error then Bennett Garner reached on an infield single with one out. DeBlaise scored on a squeeze bunt by Antonio Rosanova and Garner scored on a bloop single to right by Bennaro before Matt Bieler struck out.
With Prince George's staked to a 2-0 lead, Bennaro got into a jam in the bottom of the fifth. Connor Anderson walked, Reid Demyan reached on a bunt single then Trustin Riley walked to load the bases with none out. On the next pitch, Peirce Harhigh grounded into a 4-6-3 double play started by Garner, enabling Anderson to score. But Justin Lambert struck out, so Harrisburg managed only one run from a very promising situation.
“I just had to trust my defense to make plays behind me,” Bennaro said. “The coaches kept telling me just throw to contact and that's what I did. When Bennett came up with that ball and started that double play, that was a huge relief.”
Prince George's added an insurance run in the top of the seventh and it proved invaluable, Garner drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive then Rosanova delivered a double down the left field line that enabled Garner to score all the way from first for a 3-1 lead. Harrisburg got one run back in the bottom of the seventh, but Bennaro retired the last batter on yet another grounder to Garner.
“J.P. really pitched a great game for us,” Garner said. “He did a good job getting ahead of the hitters and keeping them off balance. Our defense made some good plays. That double play in the fifth was big. We turned one last night and that one could not have come at a better time.”
Harrisburg, which is scheduled to face Baltimore on Saturday morning, had come within a base hit of breaking the game open in the home half of the fifth. But when the Prince George's All-stars turned the double play that prevented the big inning, the momentum shifted their way and remained there.
“They're a very good team,” said Harrisburg sixth-year coach Rob Martin. “They play excellent defense. Today they came up with the timely hits. We had our chances [in the fifth] but they turned the double play. We'll have to bounce back tomorrow and then hope to see them again in the championship game on Sunday.”
Prince George's 3, Harrisburg 2
PG 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 - 3
H 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 - 2
WP - J.P. Bennaro - LP - John Brubaker - PG - Antonio Rosanova - 3B - Deon Stafford - RBI - PG - Antonio Rosanova 2, J.P. Bennaro 1.