Budurka, Santana lead 5-Star National to 14U World Series win

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 11, 2023

Julian Toro breaks for second after a fifth-inning single for 5-Star National. That’s Michael Ferdinando at first base for Beast 2027.

By Rich Bevensee

Scoring early and backing up your pitching may sound like a simple formula for winning baseball games, but that’s not always so when the subject is a middle school-aged team still getting accustomed to a 90-foot diamond.

Grant Budurka, Noah Santana and their 5-Star National (Metro) 14U teammates are looking more and more like seasoned veterans than sophomores on the big field.

Budurka allowed two runs on five hits over five innings and he was backed up by a five-run first inning as 5-Star defeated Beast 2027, 10-2, in a mercy-rule five-inning contest in the 14U Diamond Nation World Series Powered by Victus on Tuesday morning at ‘The Nation’ in Flemington. 

Budurka, a 5-5, 120-pound righty and rising freshman at LaSalle High School in Glenside, Pennsylvania, struck out seven and did not surrender a walk.

“If you give me one or two runs it puts me in a more comfortable spot than pitching without a lead or being down, because then you have pressure to keep the lead small and not give them a lead,” Budurka said. “Having a big lead means being able to throw things more comfortably instead of having to worry about, if I give up a double then I have to worry if he scores.”

Budurka allowed single runs in the second and fifth innings, and he stranded three runners in scoring position. He also received a defensive gem from third baseman Jordan Bishop, who in the fourth inning backhanded a smash down the line and threw to first in time for the out.

“That was easily Grant’s best outing of the season,” 5-Star coach Mark Bonilla said. “You get ahead and it makes life a lot easier. You throw strike one and that’s the biggest thing. Kids like to say I have a three-, four-pitch mix. I just want you to throw strike one, and he did a good job of that. His last time out was more of a challenging effort for him, trying to find the strike zone. Today he went out there and threw strike one and that’s the biggest pitch a player this age can throw to get ahead.

“You got a chance to see his maturity today, his composure. You can see how he handles himself when things don’t go his way on the mound. He just takes a deep breath and gets ready for the next pitch.”

5-Star shortstop Noah Santana, a rising freshman at John Jay in East Fishkill, N.Y., led the offense by going 2-for-3 and driving in three runs, including a walk-off two-run triple in the bottom of the fifth.

Noah Holmes rounds third base as part of 5-Star National’s five-run first inning.

“My hitting’s been on and off, doing good in some places,” Santana said.  “Today I just broke out. I thought I did well trying to work the ball the opposite way. I’m definitely trying to get the foot down early and firing the hips more. I’m also working on elevating the ball because I’m a fast guy and can take some bases.”

All involved said the five-run first inning allowed 5-Star to play more at ease. Justin Velez walked, Julian Toro reached on a throwing error, and Jeremy Lai kick-started the scoring with an opposite-field, RBI single to right.

Noah Holmes lofted a deep fly to center which turned into a two-run error, Bishop had an RBI groundout, and Santana singled up the middle to give 5-Star a 5-0 lead. 

Joseph Genova tripled to right to lead off Beast’s half of the second, and he scored on a Robert Keller single to center. 

5-Star got that run back in the bottom of the second when No. 11 hitter Aiden Filmanski tripled to left and scored on a Rafael Rodriguez groundout. The score grew to 7-1 in the fourth when Budurka singled, stole second and eventually scored on a Filmanski groundout. 

Jake Mancinelli’s two-out double in the fifth chased home Ryan Long and got Beast within 7-2. 

5-Star closed out the contest with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth. Toro led off with a single, and Bishop walked with two out. Toro scored when Colin Rohrback’s infield pop-up somehow landed safely, and Santana followed by crushing a game-ending, two-run triple. 

Ryan Long pitched well for Beast 2027, based in Long Island, N.Y. He allowed seven runs (four earned) on five hits and four walks with one strikeout in 3⅔ innings. J.D. Carty pitched 1⅓ innings of relief and permitted three runs on four hits and one walk with one strikeout. 

5-Star has a doubleheader on Wednesday, with Locked in Expos (8 a.m) and Diamond Baseball Academy (2:15 p.m.) on the slate. They close pool play Thursday against the Philadelphia Reds at 8:30 p.m.

Beast has a twinbill scheduled for Wednesday as well, against MVP New England 14U Black (8 a.m.) and Antonelli Baseball (2:15 p.m.). Beast will face Diamond Baseball Academy on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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