Beronio, UC Spartans get their footing in Mother’s Day Classic

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 12, 2024

Vinny Scudari knocks an RBI single into left field in the second inning for the Spartans.

By Rich Bevensee

Heading back to the dugout after the top half of the second inning, James Beronio’s frustration level was reaching a boiling point. 

The 12U Union County Spartans righthander started the game with turf shoes, and because of the light but steady rain which fell on Diamond Nation in Flemington on Friday evening, his plant foot was sliding with each delivery on the artificial turf mound. He flat out fell down half a dozen times. 

He switched to molded cleats after getting the first out in the second, and that didn’t do much good. More slips, more falls. 

Beronio changed into his metal spiked shoes that his middle school coach encouraged him to keep in his equipment bag, and Beronio turned into his old self, finding the plate with regularity, and more importantly, staying upright.

Beronio finished by allowing two runs on three hits over his four innings of work, and his teammates supported his effort with a 10-2 mercy rule walk-off victory over the New Jersey Rising Rebels in five innings in the 12U Mother’s Day Classic at ‘The Nation.’

“As soon as I felt I could plant on the mound I had a sigh of relief in my head and I was very excited and confident that I was going to have a good inning and a good rest of the game,” Beronio said. 

Spartans right fielder Matias Pelaez had an RBI double and made a nice over-the-shoulder, running catch at the warning track in the right field corner. Beronio helped himself with a double and triple, and R.J. Cordero, Austin Mulford and Vinny Scudari each drove in a run.

The Spartans ended the game in the bottom of the fifth when Pelaez dashed home on a wild pitch to cap a three-run rally. 

The Spartans continue pool play with a doubleheader on Saturday, against Bucks County Generals Black at 4:30 p.m., and against Diamond Jacks Gold at 6:30 p.m.

Also on Saturday, the Rebels faced the Diamond Jacks at 4:30 p.m. and the Generals at 6:30 p.m.

Utilizing a fastball, curve, slider and a rare changeup, Beronio finished with eight strikeouts over four innings against three hits and four walks. 

Even though Beronio found it challenging to plant with his left foot when throwing to the plate, he still managed to strike out the side in the first inning, with just one walk blemishing a perfect inning. 

The second inning was more of a challenge since the rain did not let up, as Beronio fell twice after throwing to the plate. With one out, Beronio ran into the dugout and changed into his molded cleats, but he still struggled with stability. He gave up two walks and surrendered a run before getting the third out with a pickoff.

Lucas Blake drove in a run for the Spartans with a fourth inning sac fly.

“When I went back out for the second inning it was still tough to throw,” Beronio said. “I was throwing well but I was still slipping so I changed to molds. Everyone thought it was going to be good but I just completely couldn’t stay up at all. I was mad. Really mad. The molds did not help at all. I went to spikes in the third and everything went fine. I could see that my breaking ball executed the way I wanted it to, the slider went both ways, and I was using my fastball to paint the outside corner – and I knew the ump was calling the outside corner.

“I should thank my middle school coach Vito (Castaldo, at David Brearley Middle School) because he always tells me to keep my cleats in my bag.”

Beronio ended the third with a pair of strikeouts, and he got two more in the fourth before giving way to Brendan Klotz, who pitched a scoreless fifth with one strikeout.

“Under tough circumstances, James was able to locate his fastball very well and work with his offspeed,” Spartans coach Dan Orlando said. “He spotted his pitches all night and kept the other team off balance.”

The Spartans entered the Mother’s Day event with a pair of exceptional performances under their belt this spring. They went 4-0 to win a USABL tournament Easter weekend in East Hanover, and they finished second in a Ripken Baseball event two weeks ago in Aberdeen, Md., after losing on a walk-off grand slam in the final. 

“Us coming to tournaments isn’t about fun anymore. We want to win them,” Orlando said. “They keep it real loose and fun, and they can hit top to bottom, so it makes it easy to coach.”

The Spartans went to work in the first inning when Pelaez drove in a run with a groundout and Mulford drove a single through the left side for a 2-0 lead.

Karson DeMaria cut the Rebels’ deficit in half when he scored from third base while Alexander Lin was caught in a rundown between first and second.

The Spartans added three more runs in the bottom of the second for a 5-1 lead. No. 11 hitter Scudari slapped an opposite-field RBI single through the left side, Cooper Simo scored on an infield error, and leadoff man Cordero added an RBI groundout.

The Rebels added one more run in the third when Preston Hwang drove an RBI single into left. 

In the top of the fourth, Beronio made a nice defensive play, diving on his belly to stop a slow roller to the right side and throwing out the Rebels’ Carmeron Ortiz for the final out of the inning. 

In the bottom of the fourth, Carmine Orlando scored on a wild pitch and Lucas Blake added a sacrifice fly for a 7-2 Spartans lead. 

The Spartans finished their work in the fifth, as No. 12 hitter Ed Paster singled and scored on a wild pitch, Pelaez drove in Luke McGill with an RBI double, and Pelaez scored on a wild pitch.

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