Basile, Donado steer Flores Baseball past Dawgs in 11U HR Classic final

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 4, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

With no outs and the tying runs on second and third in the bottom of the sixth inning, anyone wondering why 10 year olds were playing in an 11U tournament needed to pay attention to Paul Basile. 

The top-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven Diamond Dawgs were in perfect position to win the tournament championship with the tying runs in scoring position and their 3-4-5 hitters coming to bat. It looked as if the magic had finally run out for the Flores Baseball Braves 10U squad after their four-game unbeaten run to the final.

Basile, who exemplifies the talent and maturity of this particular 10U team, completely flipped the script. The hard-throwing right-hander coolly struck out the next three batters to preserve a 7-5 victory and the 11U Home Run Classic championship on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“I knew it was going to be much harder against these older kids. We just had to just play up to their level,” said Braves catcher Julius Donado, who batted .615 with two doubles and one home run for the tournament and earned Most Valuable Player honors. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI double in the final.

“We focused on doing the little stuff, and the little stuff turns into big stuff,” Donado said. 

“Julius busted his butt behind the plate for three games, gave me a couple innings yesterday, and hit .615,” Braves coach Billy Cross said. “He was phenomenal.”

That pressure-packed situation Basile wiggled out of in the sixth was the second time in as many innings the Braves stood tall in the face of pressure. 

In the fifth, the Dawgs were trailing 7-3 but loaded the bases with no outs. Basile entered the game in relief and surrendered an RBI single to James Harvey and a sacrifice fly to Ryder Romaglino. Braves right fielder Chase Redgate made a sensational sliding catch on Romaglino’s fly ball to steal an extra base hit and prevent more runs from scoring on the play.

With runners on first and third and one out, Basile picked off a Dawgs runner who was tagged out at second, and shortstop Dominic Sangemino fired home to Donado who tagged out another Dawgs baserunner at the plate to complete an unlikely and game-shifting double play.

“I wasn’t nervous when the bases were loaded,” Basile said. “I felt like, I have Dom, and when I have Dom he’s not going to fail.”

Basile exuded more of that confidence when describing what it was like to stare down the best Dawgs hitters in the sixth with the tying runs on base. Those two runners reached on fielding errors.

“I was a little bit nervous and a little bit excited, because I didn’t want to be the guy who lets up the winning run,” Basile said. “I want to be the guy they can count on. I was a little nervous and the first out made things a lot easier.”

“The thing about Paul is he’s actually 9U eligible. That’s just crazy,” Cross said. “He’s just different. The pressure never gets to him. In the short time I’ve coached him and known him he just goes out there and competes. He wants the ball. He owns up to everything he does. He’s a special player and he’s only going to get better and better as he gets older.”

The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead in their first at bat when Andryull Rodriguez hammered a two-run home run – a 265-foot clout which nearly cleared the batting cage roof in right-center field – and Donado followed with a run-scoring double.

Julius Donado of the FB Braves was named the 11U Home Run Classic MVP.

The titanic homer was Rodriguez’ third of the tournament and his 18th on the season. 

“I was just swinging hard, trying to hit a line drive,” Rodriguez said. “I just walked to first because I knew I hit it hard, and I knew it was going out.”

The teams traded runs over the next few at bats. Owen Murphy’s RBI single in the bottom of the first got the Dawgs on the board. The Braves made it 4-1 in the third on Redgate’s RBI groundout. The Dawgs’ Brexton Rinko got the deficit back to two with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning.

The Braves created some breathing room in the fourth with a three-run spurt, when RBI doubles by Sangemino and Rodriguez sandwiched a Basile run-scoring single to give the 10U upstarts a 7-2 lead. 

The Dawgs, who outscored their three prior opponents 23-10 going into the final, began to inch back into the game. Nick Thoms bombed an RBI double off the center field wall in the fourth to get the Dawgs within 7-3. 

The Dawgs picked up two more runs in the fifth on Harvey’s RBI bloop single and Romaglino’s sac fly, but they would draw no closer. 

“Kudos to everyone back home that works with them, starting with the owner, all the way to our assistant coaches to our volunteer parents,” Cross said. “The core of this team has been together since they were 5. We challenge them at all times. I’m very proud of this group.”

The Braves reached the final by knocking off the Giants/NYC Sluggers, 10-4, Diamond Jacks Super 11U, 7-6, and EEP Bandits, 11-2, in pool play before run-ruling the Westchester Knights, 16-2, in three innings in the semifinals. 

In the championship game for the Braves, Sangemino pitched four innings and surrendered three runs on six hits and no walks with two strikeouts. Rodriguez faced three batters before handing off to Basile, who pitched two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit and no walks and struck out three.

The Diamond Dawgs, making their first appearance at Diamond Nation this season, forged a path to the final and earned the top seed by beating the Locked in Baseball Expos, 5-4, Hustle Baseball, 10-0, and the Morris County Cubs, 8-6. 

Lucas Daszkowski started for the Dawgs and allowed three runs on four hits and no walks over two innings. Matt Kennedy pitched 1⅔ innings and surrendered four runs on eight hits. Owen Murphy held the Braves scoreless over the final 2⅓ innings by allowing one hit and no walks and striking out one.

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