Michael Scalera of Wladyka Baseball eyeballs a low pitch from NJ Titans’ picher Zach Robinson.
By Joe Hofmann
Andrew Dillingham was known more as a hitter at Westwood High this past spring.
He should be adding to his role next spring.
The Wladyka Baseball rising junior did the job with the stick and on the mound as his team held off the New Jersey Titans, 6-5, in a Super 25 Showcase game at Diamond Nation on Monday.
Dillingham pitched his team into the sixth and delivered a big two-run single in the third inning that put his team up, 5-0.
“He’s a bulldog, a gamer, and a great teammate,” coach Jim Wladyka said. “He’s a strike thrower. When you’re on the turf and have a good defense behind you, that is exactly what you want.”
Dillingham pitched shutout ball through three and allowed two in the fourth and two in the fifth before Wladyka removed him after tiring (77 pitches). The righty allowed four runs on six hits, fanned three and walked two.
This past spring, Dillingham DH’d for Westwood and was a fill-in as a pitcher because of a large contingent of seniors. But he looks to be first in line for the role of Westwood’s ace next spring.
“I love pitching more than hitting,” he said. “I like focusing more on pitching than hitting.”
That said, Dillingham delivered one of the game’s biggest hits when he smacked a two-run single to center to score teammates Tyler Tsai and Sean Lauterhahn.
“I was looked at more as a hitter in the spring than a pitcher,” he said. “I enjoyed hitting on the varsity. I was happy to no longer be on the freshman team and I didn’t play JV. When I did pitch, I pitched pretty well. I’m hoping to be the ace next year because everyone that was ahead of me was a senior.”
He not only has a strong arm (upper 70s fastball), Dillingham is also cerebral on the mound, which gives him the edge over hitters.
“He’s very smart with a good baseball mind,” Wladyka said. “He’s really into it, into learning about the game.”
Migueldavid Cabral led off the third inning with a double into the right field corner and, one out later, Lauterhahn reached on an infield error. Tyler Tsai hit a comebacker that resulted in Cabral being tagged out at home before Frank Orrei and Mateo Figundio (RBI) walked to make it 3-0.
Up stepped Dillingham who immediately fell into an 0-2 hole. His at-bat then turned into a thing of beauty: Over an eight-pitch stretch, Dillingham worked it to 3-2 before singling over the second baseman’s head for two more runs.
“We always hit our pitchers last so they don’t have to think too much about hitting,” Wladyka said. “What an at bat that was. That was a nice inning for us to go from 2-0 to 6-0.”
Figundo then scored from third when the catcher’s return throw to pitcher Zach Robinson went off Robinson’s glove, making it 6-0.
That would be a costly miscue for the Titans, who scored the game’s final five runs to creep to within one. Without that one costly error who knows how the game turns out?
The Titans began piecing things together. Robinson led off the fourth with a booming triple to left and scored on Nicholas Pizzie’s sac fly. Matthew Friedman walked and came around on Brandon Backunas’ RBI double to left center, making it 6-2.
There was more from the Titans in the fifth, when Mason Lisewski singled and Joey Padovano tripled into the right field corner. One out later, Matt Ciullo hit a 6-3 grounder to bring in Padovano and suddenly the Wladyka lead was down to 6-4.
“I had to change my approach,” Dillingham said. “I was throwing my two-seamer in and they were onto that so they changed their approach. So I adjusted and went more with my offspeed.”
“Andrew was running outta gas,” Wladyka added. “He had 60 (pitches) going into his last inning. We have had a two-week hiatus, so we don’t want to do too much with the arms.”
Wladyka turned to reliever Cole Goumas to close out the game. He allowed Robinson’s leadoff base hit and wild-pitched him home but didn’t allow further damage.
“And how about our 15U closer!” Wladyka said. “He did a nice job getting those last three outs, which are always the hardest to get.”
Another Waldyka hero was leadoff man Matthew DeStaso, who was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.”
“He had some good at bats,” Wladyka said. “He started things off with a hit in the top of the first inning.”
Wladyka also liked what he saw from his catchers, Parker Rutkowski and Cabral.