Nick Capone seems to burst through his skin, whether he’s firing a fastball from the mound or jumping on a fastball at the plate. Such is the energy emanating from him in his quest to succeed on the baseball diamond.
Capone succeeded at a high level in both areas Sunday evening when he and his South Jersey Elite Orange teammates rolled to a 7-1 victory over the Out Of The Park Cyclones in the 15U Summer Finale A-B Bracket championship game at Diamond Nation.
Capone shut out the Cyclones over 5.2 innings on two hits while striking out eight and walking three. He also chipped in with a single, drew a walk and launched an RBI triple from his No. 3 spot in the S.J. Elite order.
“My fastball was there for me and my changeup was good, too,” said Capone, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Capone allowed just two base runners through four innings before issuing all three of his walks in the fifth and sixth innings. But Capone stranded two runners in the fifth as he struck out the side. He faced down a one-out, second-and-third situation by striking out the next two batters.
In the sixth, he hit the leadoff batter before inducing a pair of groundouts. But when he walked Nick Staudt, S.J. Elite coach John Capone pulled him for reliever Brandon Warner. Warner uncorked what looked like a wild pitch with Steve Zultowski on third but catcher Gavin Ovello retrieved the ball and raced back to the plate to tag the runner out and end the threat.
S.J. Elite broke open a scoreless tie in a big way, striking for five runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Cyclones starter Steve Colon got himself in hot water right away by walking Brendan Bentz and Zach Jenkins. Tommy Angelone then dropped a beauty of a bunt down the third base line that didn’t even elicit a throw. That loaded the bases to set up S.J. Elite with its Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters due up.
Capone drew a walk to force home Bentz with the game’s first run and cleanup hitter Timmy Search smashed a single to center field to score two more runs and boost the lead to 3-0. Capone, now on second, would get a chance to show off his base running skills.
As Capone broke for third base in a steal attempt, Warner hit a slow bouncer between the pitcher’s mound and first base. The Cyclones completed the 1-3 out at first base but Capone raced all the way home from second base with the inning’s fourth run. Jason Carroll then delivered an RBI single to left field to cap the rally.
Angelone led off the fifth with a pop up down the left field line that fell for a single. Capone followed with a shot down the right field line that a diving Jake Riggi just missed. Capone seized the opportunity and raced all the way to third base with an RBI triple. With Search at the plate, the pitcher balked to allow Capone to score from third for a 7-0 lead.
“I got a pitch on the outside corner and just hit it the other way,” said Capone of his triple. The pitch was up a bit in the zone, too, and Capone attacked it.
S.J. Elite was in position to win the game via the eight-run mercy rule but, to the Cyclone’s credit, they simply would not allow it. Reliever Staudt induced a comebacker to strand runners at the corners in the fifth and the Cyclones would throw out two runners at the plate in the sixth.
S.J. Elite actually loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth but would not score. Angelone hit a hard shot back to the mound that deflected off Staudt toward second baseman Brandon Fisher, who scooped it up and fired home where Ovello tagged out Braden Dromboski for the first out.
Capone then appeared to end the game with his fairly deep fly ball to right field. But Riggi caught the fly ball then fired to his relay man, whose throw home got Alex LePage for the third out.
Riggi’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Colon in the top of the seventh as the Cyclones averted the shutout as well.
S.J. Elite played an efficient brand of defense. Shortstop Dromboski flashed plenty of leather and was extremely slick on a number of plays. Angelone got it done at third base as well.
“We play strong defensively and we have 10 kids who can pitch,” said coach Capone. “We’ve been competing here for a long time and we finally got a championship. Our kids compete and I love to see the strides and improvement they’ve made.”
S.J. Elite Orange finished 3-0-1 in tournament play, outscoring its opponents 31-7. Out Of The Park Cyclones (2-2) were outscored by their opponents 19-16.