AMHERST — The Amherst Comets opened play on the right note with a 10-0, six-inning victory over the Bay Rockets in the Amherst Summer Classic High School Baseball Tournament.
The Rockets never really had a chance Tuesday as they ran into a sophomore buzz saw named Justin Hritsko, who tore through Bay bats like they were balsa wood. Hritsko threw five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and striking out 11 while walking none.
“This gives us a chance to see those (younger) guys who have a chance to be in our rotation,” said Amherst coach Matt Rositano, who lost his three best pitchers to graduation. “Hritsko pitched some varsity last year as a sophomore and he’s going to have a bigger role this year, so this was an opportunity to see what he can do.”
Bay’s Aidan Bozak opened the game with a bad-hop infield hit to short and then Hritsko retired 11 in a row before catcher Logan LaMere recorded the Rockets’ other hit in the fourth.
“I was using my fastball to get ahead in the count,” Hritsko said, “then I’d throw my change-up and the curve for the third strike. I’ve been working on my change-up the whole summer and finally got it down. I just wanted to come out and throw strikes, get ahead and win our first game so we can move up.”
Hritsko left after five in a pitch-count decision, but he and reliever Brayden Willbond struck out six of the last seven Bay hitters. Willbond struck out the side in the sixth on 12 pitches.
“We wanted to keep him under 90 (pitches) and then the way the score was, he ended up throwing 81 in five innings,” Rositano said. “Any time you go out there and don’t walk anyone, don’t give up free bases, we made some nice plays to limit their baserunners. When you don’t put guys on base you make it hard on the other team.”
At the plate the Comets had 11 hits and hit .343 while taking advantage of a sloppy Rockets defense that victimized pitchers Aiden Cseh and Zak Crabb with five errors.
The Comets attack was led by senior Connor Emch, who went 3-for-3 with an RBI triple into the right-field corner. Sophomores Blake Kendall and Josh Qualls had two hits each, Kendall with a late RBI and Qualls with two runs scored and a stolen base. That steal was one of those runs, as he stole home at the front end of a third-inning double steal.
Willbond, in addition to his perfect relief inning, played closer at the plate, driving in the game-ending 10th run on a single to center. So dominant was the Amherst pitching that only two Bay batters, Connor Bozak and Cseh, avoided going down on strikes. The Rockets were caught flatfooted and half of their strikeouts were on called third strikes.
“I love this tournament because you get to see young guys,” Rositano said. “The lineup we had out there today only had one senior. A lot of guys who played freshman ball last year, Qualls, Dylan Bailey, Kendall and Caleb McGee are all going to be sophomores. Young guys get this varsity experience and let them get their feet wet. And I thought they all did well.”
The Comets continue tournament round-robin play tonight at home against Elyria at 6 o’clock.
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