AP NEWS

Mets, Yankees pitchers combine for 28 strikeouts in battle of Bronco League unbeatens

April 4, 2019

In what has to be a Deer Park Pony League record for most strikeouts in a single game, the pitching in Wednesday night’s contest at the Ruth Minchen Athletic Complex was superb.

Led by the duo of Mets hurler Jason Dinh and Yankees thrower Rome Gatlin, four pitchers combined for 28 strikeouts.

But a very brief flurry of offensive might by the Mets proved to be the difference as the team collected a 6-3 victory, propelling coach Alan Hardin’s team into sole possession of first place in the city’s Bronco League (11 and 12-year-olds).

“It turned out to be a pitching battle and this time we came out on top. I knew it was going to be a close game. They’ve got a lot of great players on that team and a lot of good coaches on that team. I’m just proud of our guys who stuck through it and came out on top,” Hardin said.

The home-plate umpire spent most of his night yelling out the count of “1-2,” “1-2,” “1-2” as in one ball, two strikes.

Dinh and Gatlin were almost never behind on the count. There was even an inning when four strikeouts were registered.

In the fifth inning, the first Mets batter struck out swinging, but strike three got away from the catcher and the batter landed on first base. That proved costly because the Yankees were an out away from going into their final at-bat only down 4-3.

But the Yankees infield let a fly ball to the right side of the infield fall in, upping the Mets lead to 5-3, followed by a low throw from the third baseman to first, sending the advantage to 6-3.

Colt Turner, in relief of Gatlin, who absorbed the defeat on the hill, struck out the 12th and 13th Mets to keep the damage at two runs.

Connor Mills, in relief of Dinh, pitched a perfect sixth inning, including the 14th and 15th Yankees to strike out. Sandwiched in between was a fine catch by the Mets centerfielder, who camped under a nice shot off the bat of Sean Dupuis.

It was an emotional win for the Mets, who are without Maddox Atchley, who just had major surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital this week. But Hardin says Atchley is on the road to recovery and is even expected back on the field perhaps later this month.

“Surgery went well and he’ll be out two to three weeks. We’ve kind of dedicated these games to him while he’s out,” said Hardin, who had the boys break their postgame huddle by shouting out Maddox’s name.

How good was Dinh’s pitching? All three Yankee outs in the second, third and fourth innings were strikeouts. And he was an out away from doing it again in the fifth inning when Gatlin grounded back to Dinh.

But the Yankees owned a 2-1 lead in the fourth after three infield singles and a third baseman’s wide throw to his second baseman. That tied the game at 1-1 and Dinh’s only walk, a free pass to Juan Rocha, forced home the go-ahead run.

But the advantage didn’t last long. Dinh doubled to start the home half of the fourth, Landon Hardin doubled him home, before a Mills infield single put the Mets on top for good at 3-2.

A Zach Valdez grounder was fumbled at third base and Mills scored to make it 4-2. Yankees hitter Kaden Smith scored an unearned run in the fifth, coming home on a Turner single to right field.

Turner, who stole like 99 bases during the 2018 season, including all-stars, is on his way to matching that in 2019. He collected three stolen bases after hitting two singles.

It was about the only way the Yankees could get a kid in scoring position against Dinh.

ravery@hcnonline.com