Cody DiOrio paced the Connecticut Rage offense with a single, double and three RBI.
By Rich Bevensee
If any of the 11U Connecticut Rage players were experiencing a major case of the jitters, the shaking was probably due to temperatures in the low 40s with wind gusts making it feel even colder on a Saturday morning in March.
Because the young men under coach Nick Lamberti’s tutelage didn’t seem in any way nervous about actually playing baseball on the first day of the spring tournament season at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Padding an already auspicious start with a mercy rule victory earlier in the morning, the Rage scored six runs in the top of the first inning and fought off a gritty challenge from the North Shore Giants (Fiordalisi) en route to a 10-7 victory in pool play in the 11U Spring Invitational.
The undefeated Rage (2-0), from Fairfield County, Conn., pounded the Horsham Hounds 15-1 earlier Saturday. The Rage will complete pool play against the Massapequa Cyclones (Love) on Sunday at 11 a.m. The championship game in the 11U field is slated for 5:30 p.m.
The Giants (1-1) won their earlier game, 12-2, over Marlboro Mustangs Blue. They will play Sunday against Brick Surge at 11 a.m.
Against the Giants, Cody DiOrio propelled the Rage offense by going 2 for 3 with three RBI. Jack Boxberger slapped an opposite-field RBI double and Trevor Stott drove in a run.
The biggest Rage hit came off the bat of catcher Xavier DeLeon. With the Rage protecting an 8-7 lead in the top of the fifth inning, DeLeon swatted a two-out single just inside the right field line to score Nick Simine and Graham Merced and give the Rage some breathing room.
“Because there were two outs, I’m really just thinking, drive them in,” DeLeon said. “It’s the biggest thing on my mind because it was a one-run game. I just wanted to put the ball in play and get them in.”
So the Rage kicked off their season by scoring 25 runs in their first two games. Not much to complain about there. After its run-rule victory, the Rage continued to swing hot bats in that big top of the first inning against the Giants.
“My boys have been ready. They’ve been batting since January 1,” Lamberti said. “Yeah, they were a little nervous getting the kinks out. First weekend. Cold weekend. Haven’t played since the fall. But I know these guys worked hard. They all put the work in.”
DiOrio ignited the first-inning rally with an opposite-field two-run single, and he and Tyler Thompson both scored on passed balls for a 4-0 lead. Stott stroked an RBI single and Boxberger added an RBI double.
“It’s good to score runs in the first inning and get on top early,” DiOrio said. “It gives you a good breeze on your shoulders and helps you not worry about how the game’s going to go.”
And DiOrio said the team was raring to go after preparing all winter. So the prospect of kicking off the season and doing so in cold weather didn’t seem to faze him or his teammates.
“I was pretty excited. Ready to get back into baseball and do what I love,” DiOrio said.
In addition to his steady bat, DiOrio also provided the defensive play of the game. In the bottom of the fourth, the Giants’ Josh Seale hit a slow roller past pitcher Rener Mejia. DiOrio charged in from third base and made a superb off-balance throw to first to nab Seale.
Despite getting off to a rousing start, the Rage were playing nip-and-tuck baseball the rest of the way against the Giants, who answered with six runs in the bottom of the first.
Leadoff man Liam McGrath scored on a double steal, Dylan Waltz ripped an RBI single, and Mike Fiordalisi (2-for-3) cranked a grounds rule, two-run double, bringing the Giants within 6-4. Andrew Salgado scored on an infield error and Nate Ryan tied the game with an infield single.
The Giants bounced right back with two runs in the top of the second for an 8-6 lead. DiOrio belted an RBI double and Thompson added an RBI single.
The Giants trimmed their deficit to one in the bottom of the fourth on Ryan’s RBI groundout, but a half-inning later DeLeon delivered the crucial blow with his two-run single which hugged the right field line.
Coming on to pitch in relief of Nick Simone, who worked the first four innings, Carter Giampaolo threw the final two frames and struck out the side in the sixth.