By Sean Reilly
Jon Gonzalez, the coach of the Colossal Baseball 10U Select, has spent the spring tournament season pointing his team toward the Father’s Day Classic at Diamond Nation.
“Every single time we come here, the competition is always good,” he said. “This is our sixth tournament, and I’ve been priming them toward this one specifically.”
Once his team arrived in Flemington, he was then planning to save ace pitcher Bryce Cufaro for the championship game.
Nothing in Colossal Baseball’s first three games of the weekend – two on Saturday and one earlier on Sunday – altered that wish. The South Jersey-based team won each of those games by a combined score of 37-9.
That set up the team perfectly for its title matchup against another unbeaten team, South Shore Chiefs Cremonese from Long Island.
Behind Cufaro’s pitching, a huge hit from tournament MVP Leo Hernandez and an impressive defensive performance highlighted by second baseman Sam Stump, Colossal Baseball 10U Select won the championship with a 5-1 decision.
Cufaro was able to pitch a complete game. He allowed six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
“I usually throw a fastball and change up,” he said. “I was able to throw both, and my teammates played really good.”
A key to his outing was working through potential trouble in the top of the first. The Chiefs started the game with singles by Chris Normile and Gennaro Cremonese, but Cufaro retired the next three on a pop to Stump, a strikeout, and grounder to Stump, who stepped on second for the third out.
“He pitched a great game,” Gonzalez said. “He’s our ace and we saved him for this the entire time. To be honest, we’ve been swinging the bats the last four weekends, and I’ve been saving him for the ‘chip every weekend. We’ve been putting up enough runs to be able to use our other guys, and we have a couple of other guys who are really good, too.”
Colossal Baseball took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, which started with a triple to right center field by Ben Kite. He scored on Mason Bendig’s one-out infield hit.
Colossal Baseball added another run in third. Charlie Stump led off with an infield hit and moved to second on a one-out hit by Leighlan Reyes. A ground out advanced the runners, and Stump scored on a wild pitch.
South Shore got within 2-1 in the fourth when Ben Heller drew a bases-loaded walk with two out. Cufaro prevented further damage by striking out the next batter.
Colossal Baseball broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth. The first two batters reached before Hernandez drove in both on a triple to center. Kite then hit a single to bring in Hernandez.
“Leo was out maybe twice the whole weekend,” Gonzalez said. “And he had the hit that broke this game open. He’s been swinging it really well.”
Sam Stump made two impressive defensive plays in the top of the fifth. The leadoff batter tripled, and kept running toward home. Stump alertly held on to the relay from center fielder Reyes instead of throwing toward third. It enabled him to instead throw accurately to catcher Angelo DiSilvestro, who had the ball in plenty of time to apply the tag for the out.
“They’re starting to learn not to throw the baseball around,” Gonzalez said. “If he would have thrown to third base, he probably would have been safe at home. But he held it, he eventually went home and he threw him out at the plate.”
The next batter hit a grounder to Stump, who got the out by scooping the ball inside his glove to first baseman Tyler Burns.
“They’re very solid on defense,” Gonzalez said. “Especially the middle of the infield.”
The victory was special for winning coach Gonzalez, who won his first tournament championship coaching at Diamond Nation, after previously coming to Flemington several times with older Colossal teams.
“I’ve been never won it here,” he said. “I’ve been coaching for almost five years now, and every single chance I’ve had to come here, I’ve never even made playoffs. I’ve usually coached the older guys, and I think that older tournaments here at Diamond Nation are a lot harder to win.
“The biggest difference between the older guys and younger guys is that I have to start from scratch. The older guys have a basic knowledge of the game and usually you just have to critique. With them, you have to completely reinvent the game and teach them the little specifics. They’ve been great.”