By Sean Reilly
Kyle Rogers had a pitching plan on Monday afternoon, and he couldn’t have executed it any better.
The 6-3, 225-pound left hander threw with poise and purpose for four scoreless innings in leading his Complete Performance Baseball Academy 18U team to a 10-0 victory over the TKR Reds for the championship of the 17/18U Columbus Day Showdown on Monday afternoon at Diamond Nation.
“I was trying to keep them off-balance,” said Rogers, a senior at Clifton. “Don’t let them know what was coming next. I never threw the same sequence twice. They definitely weren’t expecting some of my pitches. I didn’t even pull out my two-seam until the fourth inning.”
Aside from his blend of fastballs and off-speed deliveries, Rogers also boosted Complete Performance at the plate. The No. 3 batter in the lineup, his RBI single with one out in the first inning gave the North Jersey team a 1-0 lead, and his full-count walk with one out in the third loaded the bases for Joey Bernardo, who then hit a three-run double for a 7-0 advantage.
The Columbus Day Showdown was a one-day tournament, with teams earning berths based on performance in previous events at ‘The Nation.’ Complete Performance earned its bid by going 3-0 at the Wood Bat Championship on Sept. 10-11.
Complete Performance came to Flemington after winning a weekend tournament in Bergen County, and its success there carried over. It opened Monday with a 2-2 tie against Baseball U Pa. 17U, and then beat Baseball U Pa. 18U, 6-3, to reach the final.
Rogers was a Big North Conference Liberty Division First-Team selection earlier this year, when he went 7-0. He struck out 60, walked 16 and allowed 42 hits over 47 innings.
He set a tone against the TKR Reds by quickly striking out the side in the top of the first inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Jonathan Porcelli led off with a single to center field, and Jude Clough was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch advanced the runners into scoring position. After a strikeout, Rogers drove in Porcelli with a single to right field. Joey Bernardo then grounded out to third base to score Clough.
Rogers pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, with strikeouts of the last two batters. Complete Performance couldn’t score in its half of the inning.
The third inning was pivotal in the outcome. TKR got its first hit when Chris Laieta led off with a double to right center. A one-out walk was followed by a ground out which put runners on second and third with two out. A ball hit to shallow right field was caught near the ground by a charging Conner Praschil to retire the side.
“That was huge,” Rogers said. “I missed my spot on the first batter of the inning, I got us close and then he ended the inning for us.”
In the bottom of the third, Complete Performance scored five times to extend its lead to 7-0. Max Delagarde walked and Porcelli was hit by a pitch before Clough drove in both with a one-out double to the left field corner. Walks to Brooks Kanwisher and Rogers loaded the bases for Bernardo, who cleared the bases with his hit to center.
Rogers showed his guile in the top of the fourth. A walk, single and a double steal put runners on second and third with nobody out for TKR. But the big southpaw induced an infield fly to shortstop and then struck out the next two batters to maintain the shutout.
“I just focused,” he said. “I tried to not miss my spot.”
In the bottom of the inning, Complete Baseball manufactured three runs, all with two out, to end the game via the mercy rule. Steven Egazarian singled to left field, and Delagarde sent him to third with a double to right center. Cooper Montalbano knocked them both in with a hit to center, and he scored the game ending-run when Porcelli doubled to center.
Porcelli, who ended 2-for-2 with the hit by pitch and two runs, was named tournament MVP. A standout last spring for Passaic Tech, he was selected for the same All-Big North divisional first team as Rogers.
“We played this weekend, but it wasn’t really a great one for me,” he said. “Not enough barrels. Today I came into the cage, shortened everything up and everything was bouncing off the barrel.”
“This was our fourth day in a row playing,” said Rogers, who struck out eight and allowed two hits and two walks. “This team, we just wake up and play baseball.”