Palm Beach High School Baseball
Cardinal Newman High School Baseball

Benjamin Rides Big First Inning To Quarterfinal Victory

Matt Ellmyer struck out eight over his six and a third innings pitched.

In Benjamin’s district championship game against the John Carroll Rams, John Carroll came out and set the tone for the game right off the bat. They put up seven runs in the top of the first inning and backed Benjamin into a corner right out of the gate. Benjamin was never really able to recover and lost the game by nine runs.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. As a result of that game, Benjamin had to go on the road and face Trinity Christian in the regional quarterfinal game. With the John Carroll game still on their mind, the Buccaneers decided to see if they couldn’t replicate how the Rams had started the game a few nights earlier and set the tone early on. The plan worked well, as the Bucs secured a 6-1 victory after taking the lead early on.

“What stuck in our minds the most was the way John Carroll jumped on us in the first inning of that district championship game,” Benjamin Manager Brian Kaplan said. “It put us in a position where we were on our backs. All week long we talked about wanting to do the same thing to this team.”

That’s exactly what Benjamin did as well. They came out and got four quick runs on the board to start the game and set the tone offensively. The inning got started with leadoff man Baylen Sparks,who reached on an error. After pitcher Matt Ellmyer popped out to the catcher, the Buccaneers got their next six batters on base, including RBI singles from Zach Zientarski, Isaiah Thomas, and Parker Quinn. Before the Warriors’ offense had even hit the field, they found themselves in a 4-0 hole.

“The game really got decided in the first inning,” Trinity Christian Manager Miguel Cuello said. “There were a few miscues, but it was those four runs.”

On top of the four run-first inning, Benjamin got a dominant pitching performance out of their starter Ellmyer. Ellmyer kept the Trinity Christian batters guessing all night, striking out eight and allowing only five hits in six and a-third-innings.

“I felt great tonight,” Ellmyer said. “I felt confident in my pitches, the defense played a great game behind me, and Logan Taplett called a great game. I had confidence in my teammates.”

Ellmyer got roughed up a little in the district title game against John Carroll, but Kaplan never lost faith in him and gave him the ball in a win or go home game.

Shadrach Muelens catches a pop up behind home plate.

“We’ve trusted him all season long,” Kaplan said. “The only thing that happened last start is he just got humbled a little bit. He had no-hit John Carroll in the previous meeting and I think he just got a little overconfident and not quite as focused. When he walked on the mound this game, I told him all week to mentally envision what you are going to do out there, how you are going to be successful, and where you’re going to locate.”

Just for good measure, Benjamin added two more runs in the fourth inning on a two-RBI double by Taplett. The key offensively for Benjamin on the night was having good quality at bats every time at the plate.

“We knew that we were going to have a quality at bat every time,” Kaplan said. “I didn’t want guys going up there and looking at pitches with two strikes. We were going to go up there and foul off pitches and work the count as much as we could and try and tire him out and that led to a couple of runs.”

Benjamin will now get a chance to exact some revenge on John Carroll in the regional semifinals on Tuesday, as the Rams defeated Highlands Christian 2-0 on Thursday night as well.

“We will have a different arm on the mound with Ellmyer throwing the amount of pitches he threw tonight,” Kaplan admitted. “Whether it’s Zientarski or Armstrong, they need to understand that their hitting is going to be confident after the last outing and they are going to be aggressive, so it’s our job to locate well and get ahead and challenge them early on. We’re away this time, so we get first bite. The key is to keep the confidence and focus high and go out there and win another game. We know we are capable of beating them.”

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