By Rich Bevensee
Make no mistake, when Thomas Cano-Piszel steps to the plate, all other dugout activity stops and all eyes are locked on the Diamond Jacks’ slugger.
It’s worth the price of admission to pay attention, because it’s not a question of if he hits the ball, or when, but how. As in, how hard will he connect and how far will the ball go this time.
Teammates usually scream and cheer for a teammate’s home run, but when Cano-Piszel connected in the fifth inning for the Diamond Jacks Super 17 2024 club on Wednesday evening, it drew an admiring, awe-inspired “Whoa” from his dugout.
Cano-Piszel hammered a 1-0 pitch which sizzled on a line over the left field fence and continued over the first base dugout of the adjacent Field 5, a mammoth 350-foot line drive which highlighted his team’s 8-5 victory over Wladyka Baseball in a Garden State Scout League contest at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“I knew after getting a first-pitch breaker that a fastball had to be next,” Cano-Piszel said. “He was throwing a second-pitch fastball to every hitter and I was just sitting on it. As soon as I hit it I knew it was a homer. It was a mistake pitch and I was waiting for it.”
Cano-Piszel, a 6-1, 195-pound junior at Central Bucks East, connected for his seventh homer for the Diamond Jacks since summer ball began in early June. But he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a guy who swings for the fences.
“I’d call myself someone who hits for both average and power,” Cano-Piszel said. “I hit the ball in the gaps and I can hit the ball out. If I see that pitch I’ll usually sell out a little bit and try to hit it out, but only when I know it’s gonna go out.”
Diamond Jacks coach Walt Cleary said the aspect which impresses him the most about Cano-Piszel is not his strength so much as it is his technique.
“He works smooth, he has very good barrel accuracy, and when he stays aggressive at the plate he really puts charges into baseballs,” Cleary said.
Cano-Piszel’s solo shot was but one highlight in the Diamond Jacks’ triumph. Six pitchers, all high school juniors, threw one inning each, with the goal of saving arms for a Prep Baseball Report (PBR) tournament this coming weekend.
Cody Sherrer (North Warren) allowed one run on two hits. Kellen Moore (Lawrence) and Jack Steinel (Voorhees) pitched clean second and third innings, respectively.
Noah Mednick (Jefferson) allowed one unearned run on one hit and one walk with one strikeout in the fourth. Jack Kopera (Jefferson) pitched a scoreless fifth with two strikeouts. Robert Kelly (Lawrence), after yielding three runs on five walks and a hit, closed the door in the sixth.
Cleary said with plans scrapped for playing in a tournament in Florida this weekend – Hurricane Ian took care of that – it was time to give all of his starters some mound time.
“We were set to go down to Florida for a tournament,” Cleary said, referring to the Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers. “I called a 16 Gold player, Noah, to let him throw an inning today. He was actually scheduled to throw more but since the tournament got canceled I wanted all of our starters to go. With a PBR tournament this weekend I didn’t want anyone throwing much more than an inning.”
Wladyka’s C.J. Orrego was his team’s lone batter who seemed to figure out the Diamond Jacks pitchers. The cleanup hitter had an RBI double in the first inning and an RBI triple in the fourth.
Wladyka struck first when Orrego’s double down the right field line drove in Matt DeStaso for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Diamond Jack Jayden Shin tied the game in the top of the second with an RBI single, driving in Nick Hernandez.
The Diamond Jacks scored six runs (three earned) in the top of the third for a 7-1 lead. Matt Kosuda walked with the bases loaded, Cano-Piszel had a fielder’s choice RBI, Hernandez drove in a run with a grounds rule double to right field and Andrew Reynolds brought two runs home on his hard-hit grounder that was misplayed.
Wladyka chipped away in the fourth inning when Orrego tripled to the right center field fence, driving in Shea Grady who reached on an error.
In the top of the fifth, Cano-Piszel drilled a 1-0 fastball over the left field fence of Field 4, over the concourse behind the fence, and over the first base dugout of Field 5.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Wladyka earned three straight walks before Lucas van Gendt walked with the bases loaded, Christian Badenhausen had an infield RBI single, and Sean Lauterhahn also walked with the bases loaded to represent the tying run at first base.
That’s when Kelly got a fly ball out to end the drama.
Wladyka pitcher Anthony Magliozzi pitched well in relief of starter Zach Stichweh. The Union High senior allowed one run on one hit (the Cano-Piszel bomb) with no walks and three strikeouts in 2⅓ innings.