Be it 10U softball or baseball, a viewer’s expectations are rarely high in regard to the level of play, general game awareness and the still developing athletic ability.
That is unless you witnessed the splendid 10U Jennie Finch’s Spring Invitational championship game pitting NJ Intensity 10U and TC Futures 10U-Cole.
Righthander Gianna Burzo truly made it splendid from the NJ Intensity end of it by scattering seven hits over four innings while striking out 10 and walking just one to deliver a 9-4 championship victory for the Central Jersey-based program.
“My drop was working and my fastball, too,” said Burzo, nestling her MVP trophy under her arm. “I knew my team was behind me. I was working hard. From the beginning of the game, I knew I could beat them.”
On the losing side, TC Futures had its own terrific athlete on display in the form of leadoff hitter Lauren Spolensky. All the TC Futures’ catcher did was leadoff the game with a home run to left field, deliver an RBI grounds rule double in the second inning and rip an RBI single to right field in the fourth for a perfect 3-for-3 evening.
But the NJ Intensity bats were simply a bit too, let’s say, intense, for TC Futures as the tournament’s No. 2 playoff seed mashed eight hits in its four at bats, had eight of its nine batters reach base and six of them scored at least a run. Intensity’s ability to barrel up pitches was alarming.
In a game full of eye-grabbers, Burzo’s pitching performance was most appealing. Burzo struck out the side in the first and fourth innings and picked up a pair of strikeouts in the second and third innings. Each strikeout seemed critical at the time because the TC Futures bats were just as lively as Intensity’s.
“Our girls give 100 percent,” said Intensity coach Marie Burzo. “They are a hard working group of girls. They practice three days a week but I know they are working seven days a week.” Much of the Intensity team came together a year ago as 9 year-olds. “They play so well because they call each other family.”
The squad from Westchester, N.Y. hammered out seven hits of its own and had baserunners in every inning except the third. Burzo struck out the first two batters that inning and third baseman Ang Tessitore made a terrific lunging, sliding catch to her left on a liner off the bat of TC Futures’ Emmie Dwyer.
Other indications of an unusually high-level of play for 10Us were the paucity of walks, wild pitches and passed balls. Bruzo threw the only wild pitch in the game – in the first inning – and there were no passed balls by catchers Spolensky and Intensity’s Ade Lorill. Righthander Ava Cole got the start for TC Futures and the two walks she issued made for just a total of three in the game for the two hurlers. Truly impressive.
And, the two teams combined to commit just three errors.
Intensity, which went 6-0 in the tournament and outscored its opponents 35-18, set the tone with a five-run bottom of the first inning that answered the run that TC Futures scored in the top of the inning.
Intensity mashed five of its eight hits in the five-run rally as Jordyn Jarks ripped an RBI double and Claire Giardina and Addison McCabe each delivered an RBI single. Burzo had an infield hit, Lexi Buschiazzo singled and Tessitore brought a run home with a fielder’s choice grounder to the right side as Intensity batted around.
Intensity leadoff hitter Ade Lorill started the second by threading a single through the middle and eventually came around when Jarka dropped a pop up over second base for a 6-3 lead. TC Futures struck for two runs in the top of the second to show it wasn’t backing down. Riley Hopkins started that rally with a double to right field. Hopkins scored on Spolensky’s grounds rule double to right. And Spolensky raced home from third on Ally Cole’s foul pop-out to the right side.
TC Futures drew within 6-4 in the top of the fourth after No. 9 hitter Gianna Peanamanda started it with a two-out double to left field. The relentless Spolensky then singled her home to shave the deficit to 6-4.
But, with the time limit winding down, Intensity put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. For the third time, it was Lorill who started the rally, this time with a walk. Lorill was on third with two outs and scored on a throwing error to boost the lead to 7-4. Tessitore and Buschiazzo reached on infield hits and each scored on a throwing error to cap the scoring at 9-4.
Burzo’s ability to not dominate but contain the potent TC Futures lineup proved the difference.
“You need spin and to spot it,” coach Burzo said. “Gianna throws a drop, a fastball, screwball and changeup.” And she used all of those to fend off a very worthy opponent.
NOTES: TC Futures third baseman Rachel Tuckman made a diving catch in the hole on a shot off the bat off Buschiazzo for the third out in the second inning. … TC Futures finished the tournament at 4-3 and outscored its opponents 49-40.