9ers pitcher David Bartek, who struck out eight batters, sends in another heater.
By Will Harrigan
To put it candidly, Colossal Sports Academy’s 17U hitters looked overmatched in the first three innings of Thursday afternoon’s 18U Diamond Nation World Series game.
.9ers pitcher and Parsippany High product David Bartek was flawless in that span, fanning seven batters and only allowing a weakly hit fly out of the infield.
But once the batting order turned over for a second at bat, a switch flipped for Jon Gonzalez’s squad.
Now swinging early in counts, Colossal responded with a four spot in the fourth inning and rode that momentum all the way to a 4-3 victory over the 9ers Baseball Club on a sweltering July day at Diamond Nation. The temperature at first pitch was 99 degrees.
With the victory, Colossal Sports Academy is now 1-1 in the 18U Diamond Nation World Series Wood Bat, while the 9ers fell to the same record.
“We deviated from the approach we teach the first go around. We let their pitcher get ahead, and he’s way too good for us to put ourselves in that spot,” Gonzalez said. “Second time through, we got back to our approach of getting good swings on hittable balls early in the count.”
The winning rally started with one out in the fourth.
David Cappuccio and Joey Ruffino each drew a walk off of Bartek, who responded by promptly fanning Colossal clean-up hitter Liam Kennedy for the second out.
But Jake Maahs – a rising junior at Camden Tech – swung at the first offering Bartek threw and belted a two-out double into the left-center field gap to score a pair of runs and put the winners ahead 2-1.
Two batters later, following a free pass drawn to Zach Baldassare, Lucas Middleman of St. Joseph’s Prep (PA) laced another two-out, two-run double, instantly turning the Colossal lead into 4-1.
In the bottom of the second, the 9ers’ Colin Claiborne (Iselin Kennedy) drove in the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly to center field. That long fly scored John Carollo, who had reached on a walk.
Aidan Luu would walk, take second on a wild pitch, and was promptly driven home a batter later when Thomas Mazzella of Shore Conference runner-up Jackson Memorial singled him home. Those two runs were the only blemishes on a five-inning day for Kennedy, a right-hander who plays his ball for Shawnee.
“(Liam) is not a guy who’s going to jump out or blow you away,” said Gonzalez. “But he keeps the ball low and guys don’t get good contact off him. What he did today is exactly what he does best.”
Facing their final chance to win it in the seventh, Brady Leach of the 9ers cut the deficit to a single run in a loud way. The rising senior at Brick Memorial tattooed an opposite field home run well over the fence in what can only be described as a startling display of power.
The 9ers would get the tying run on when Matt Mason drew a base on balls, but the rally was promptly extinguished when the Colossal dialed up a double play ball to close out the victory.