Austin Ruiz’s importance to the Telecommunication lineup went up dramatically with star Josh Palacios out at least two weeks with a sprained ankle. The sophomore first baseman didn’t wait long to have an impact.
Ruiz collected three RBIs, including driving in the tying and go ahead run in the Yellow Jackets 6–4 win over defending city champion Grand Street Campus in Public School Athletic League baseball at Ben Vitale Park on Wednesday afternoon. He did so after struggling at the plate coming in.
“Josh is a big bat in our lineup. Usually it’s me and him back to back,” Ruiz said. “With him gone I feel like I’m more responsible to pick up his slack and my slack at the same time.”
Ruiz led off the fifth inning with a solo homer well over the centerfielder’s head to tie the score at 3–3 and give his team an emotional lift. Ruiz’s second RBI ground out of the game put Telecom, which lost in the semifinals last year, up for good at 4-3 in the seventh and sparked a three-run inning. Devin Cain’s infield single and a throwing error each brought in runs to make it 6–3.
Yellows Jackets coach Ed D’Alessio was pleased with the performance of his first baseman, who tweaked his quad scooping up a throw in the sixth. He wants to see a few more hits moving forward.
“He’s got to do something [more],” D’Alessio said. “He hit a home run. He’s playing a little hurt. He just needs to be a little more relaxed at the plate. The kid can really hit. You saw the shot he hit.”
Telecom got a workmen like performance from ace Chris Lee. The senior allowed three runs on two hits, while walking two walks in five innings. Lee got a huge ground-ball double play to end fifth with the bases loaded and one out.
“He sucked it up,” D’Alessio said.
The Yellow Jackets did have to hold their breath in the bottom of the seventh, especially since Grand Street rallied the last two years to beat them. The Wolves scored a run on an error and got the go ahead run to the plate against reliever Josh Mercado with runners on first and second and two outs, but Mercado was able to get a ground out to give his team an emotional win.
“This is huge for us,” Lee said. “This brought our whole team together.”
Grand Street coach Melvin Martinez isn’t discouraged by the loss, though he felt his veteran hitters didn’t cash in on a big chance in the fifth. Martinez has confidence in pitchers Alex Cuas, Jason Plasencia and Miguel Rodriguez and No. 3 hitter Santo Duran, who drove in three against Telecom.
“I’m not worried,” Martinez said. “We have a really good team.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk