JACOBUS — Commitment to the team is a constant issue for local sandlot baseball teams.
Many veteran players long for the days when nearly every player could be counted on to show up on a given night.
Commitment, however, is not an issue for Hallam infielder Giorgio Butts, who had a big role in helping the Express to a clinching 9-4 triumph over regular-season champion East Prospect on Sunday in Game 4 of the Susquehanna League Playoff Championship Series.
Born in Puerto Rico, the 24 year old moved to Manchester, Maryland, when he was in high school. He still lives below the Mason-Dixon Line in the town of Bel Air.
While it takes him nearly an hour to travel into Pennsylvania to play for the Express, Butts does it without complaint. That kind of dedication would lead many to consider Butts a throw-back player from a bygone era.
His teammates, however, have another term they can now use for the affable infielder — clutch.
Butts belted a no-doubt-about-it, three-run homer over the left-field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning to give his team some much-needed insurance. That homer off of East Prospect standout pitcher Dylan Stoops was just part of a two-hit, four-RBI night for Butts, helping Hallam claim the best-of-five series 3-1.
“We knew that two runs would probably not be enough against a team like East Prospect,” Butts said. “(When I came up to bat) I was just trying to do my job. Luckily I got a good hold of it.”
Just the day before, on Saturday, the Pistons nearly erased an 8-0 deficit in the resumption of Game 1 of the series before falling, 8-5. Stoops then allowed just two hits and one run in a 7-1 Prospect victory in the regularly scheduled Game 3 that sent the series into Sunday.
Pistons jump out on top: The Pistons appeared to be in good shape to stretch the series to the limit when Thomas Taylor connected for a three-run homer in the top of the second. The Express, who were forced to move their home games to Jacobus because of a town carnival, got a run back when Butts drove in Dan Wecker in the bottom of the frame with a RBI double.
Prospect scored a lone run in the fourth to stretch its lead to 4-1.
The Express, however, took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth off EP starter Sam Deardorff, who earned the victory in the deciding game of the York County Championship Series against Central League champ Stoverstown. After three straight singles, Xavier Bonilla drew a bases-loaded walk to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Alex Tucci, who allowed seven hits in picking up the victory, helped his own cause with a RBI fielder’s choice before Angel Matias stroked a two-run single to put Hallam ahead 5-4.
Adding insurance: Hallam added some insurance in the fifth off Stoops, who threw 100 pitches the day before, when Shawn McCleary walked, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Zach Zambito’s RBI single.
An inning later, Butts drove a fastball over the fence to all but seal the outcome. Moments later, Tucci pumped his fist after recording the final out of the series.
“These guys on the team are great,” Butts said after first thanking God. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to share this experience with.”
Mike Wecker, Hallam's manager, was all smiles, even after getting a water-cooler shower on the field after the game.
“This is just so sweet to come out and play your best ball at the end of the year,” he said. “They (East Prospect) won the league and won the county and we still beat a team like that.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.