Frankford’s finest

The Pi­on­eers dom­in­ated North­east High, 17-0, in the Pub­lic League quarterfi­nals.

Frank­ford’s Ra­fael Cruz (#23)

They did it twice this year, and last week was no ex­cep­tion. 

The Frank­ford Pi­on­eers base­ball team — which fin­ished second in the Pub­lic League Di­vi­sion A while av­er­aging 9.8 runs per game — crushed North­east High School in the Pub­lic League quarterfi­nals on May 27. 

North­east has had a tough sea­son against the Pi­on­eers. Frank­ford whipped the Vik­ings on April 21, 11-4, and then man­handled them again on May 13, 16-5.

In last Fri­day’s quarterfi­nal play­off game, though, Frank­ford really put it to North­east. The Pi­on­eers torched the Vik­ings with 17 runs be­fore the mercy rule took ef­fect (a lead of 15 runs after three in­nings or 10 runs after five in­nings), send­ing the team to an early exit from the game — and end­ing North­east’s sea­son — cour­tesy of the 17-0 drub­bing.

“A while ago I told the guys to stop wait­ing for the fourth and fifth in­nings to get go­ing,” said Pi­on­eers coach Juan Namnun. “We’ve been do­ing a good job of jump­ing on teams early the last month, and we just con­tin­ued do­ing that today.”

In­deed they did. 

The Pi­on­eers rocked Vik­ings start­ing lefty pitch­er Tyler Lay­field for six runs in the first in­ning and four in the second be­fore he was pulled. The Pi­on­eers did not stop there, con­tinu­ing their on­slaught with singles, doubles, triples, home runs, stolen bases and cap­it­al­iz­ing on er­rors while pil­ing up 17 runs.

The Pi­on­eers were just as im­press­ive on the de­fens­ive side of the ball. It star­ted with pitch­er Omar Cruz, now 7-1, who al­lowed no runs and just four hits, all singles.

“He hadn’t thrown in sev­en days, so he was well-res­ted,” Namnun ex­plained. “And I thought that if we won today, he’d be res­ted and ready to go for next week’s game.”

Cruz ac­know­ledged that pitch­ing in the top of the second in­ning with a six-run cush­ion, and then re­turn­ing to the mound in the third in­ning ahead by 17 runs, made his day easi­er.

“I just went out, played my game and threw strikes,” said Cruz, a ju­ni­or. “But it’s def­in­itely easi­er to pitch with a big lead.”

Cruz helped his own cause at the plate by go­ing 3-3 with three RBIs.

After Frank­ford’s Au­gusto Or­tega groun­ded out to the shortstop to lead off the bot­tom of the first, Lay­field walked ju­ni­or Ricky Al­varez, who stole second base and scored on a Cruz single. After Lay­field got cleanup hit­ter Kev­in Montero to fly out to cen­ter for the second out, five straight Pi­on­eers reached base with an er­ror, single, double, home run and a walk. The home run was a two-run shot over the left­field fence by seni­or Ri­cardo Cal­cano.

“We take bat­ting prac­tice every day and we were ac­tu­ally ex­pect­ing to face their righty Lynn Howard, but he’s in­jured,” ex­plained Namnun. “In­stead we saw a lefty, but we ad­jus­ted.”

The bot­tom of the second in­ning was when things really turned ugly for the Vik­ings, who sur­rendered five singles, one double, four walks — there also was an er­ror and a balk — and an op­pos­ite-field, three-run homer off the bat of seni­or Is­rael Diaz. All of that pro­duced 11 runs.

“I just saw a pitch that I liked and put a swing on it,” Diaz said with a smile after the game.

Win­ning by com­fort­able mar­gins is noth­ing new to the Pi­on­eers, who fin­ished in second place in Di­vi­sion A with a Pub­lic League re­cord of 12-2 and an over­all re­cord of 15-4. In­clud­ing the play­offs, the Pi­on­eers scored 10 or more runs in 13 games and won by an av­er­age point dif­fer­en­tial of 7.8 runs while rid­ing a nine-game win streak.

The Vik­ings had a rough sea­son — they fin­ished last in Di­vi­sion A, go­ing 2-12 in Pub­lic League play. They av­er­aged 3.4 runs per game but al­lowed an av­er­age of 11.2. They were shut out three times and sur­rendered 10 or more runs 11 times. They also lost 12 of their last 13 games.

Frank­ford faced a much more evenly matched op­pon­ent in Cent­ral on Tues­day, after the Times went to press this week. Cent­ral got through the quarterfi­nals much like Frank­ford did, breez­ing past Frank­lin Towne Charter, 15-2, with the mercy rule tak­ing ef­fect after the fifth in­ning.

A re­match of last year’s Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship, in which Frank­ford fell to Cent­ral, 7-3, could turn out to be much like Frank­ford’s win over North­east. Though fin­ish­ing third in Di­vi­sion A, Cent­ral did not strike fear in­to the Pi­on­eers, who soundly beat them twice by scores of 15-5 and 16-7.

If Frank­ford’s bats con­tin­ue to stay hot, beat­ing Cent­ral should be no prob­lem.

“It doesn’t mat­ter who we face,” said Diaz. “A pitch­er is a pitch­er.”

Al­though the Pi­on­eers seem un­stop­pable — they hadn’t lost since April 29 while outscor­ing and out­pitch­ing every team they faced — Cruz re­mained fo­cused on the road ahead.

“We really came to­geth­er as a team and we’re play­ing well,” said Cruz. “I hope we keep it up and con­tin­ue to move on­ward and up­ward.” ••

Re­port­er Dave Nes­cio can be reached at Dave.Nes­

In oth­er Pub­lic League play­off ac­tion:

North­east, 10; Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln, 9: North­east High School ral­lied for eight hits and 10 runs to beat Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln in the first round of the Pub­lic League play­offs on May 23. Lin­coln fin­ished its sea­son 3-8 in league play and 4-11 over­all. 

Cent­ral, 12; Samuel Fels, 2: After dom­in­at­ing the Pub­lic League Di­vi­sion C — claim­ing first place — Samuel Fels lost, 12-2, to Cent­ral in the second round of the Class AAAA play­offs. Samuel Fels fin­ished the year 11-0 in league play and 12-2 over­all. 

George Wash­ing­ton, 11; Es­per­anza, 4: George Wash­ing­ton de­feated Es­per­anza in the Pub­lic League quarterfi­nals on May 27. Wash­ing­ton seni­ors Bry­an Re­iss and Dan Meade homered, and fresh­man John San­tos knocked in three runs. Pitch­er Tom Mor­ano went 3-for-4 with one RBI. 

Wash­ing­ton is slated to face Cent­ral in the Pub­lic League semi­finals on Tues­day, but the game was played after the Times went to press this week. ••

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