Contiliano well-armed to help short-handed Super 16 staff

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 9, 2024

Danny Contiliano trots across the plate in the third inning for Diamond Jacks Super 16U.

By Rich Bevensee

If Hunterdon Central baseball coach Kevin Cuozzi is looking to bolster the depth of his pitching staff next spring, he may want to have a chat with Danny Contiliano. 

Contiliano, who just completed his sophomore season at the Hunterdon County powerhouse, led the Red Devils in hitting with a .395 batting average, but he didn’t throw a single pitch. 

In the third inning of his first summer tournament with the short-handed Diamond Jacks Super 16U squad, Contiliano was called on for relief duty and responded with three scoreless innings to help his team knock off Beast 2026 National, 8-1, in pool play in the Super 16 Invitational on Saturday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“Coach never asked and neither did I, to be honest,” Contiliano said about pitching for Central. “I don’t know if I would have trusted myself in big games, but maybe if we were up by a lot. I don’t know, maybe I’ll have more trust in myself now.”

Contiliano threw three scoreless, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out six with just a fastball and an occasional knuckleball.

“I trust my knuckleball a little more now,” Contiliano said. “I play catch with my brother Mike (Central’s senior shortstop) so I’ve been working on it.” 

Diamond Jacks coach Walt Cleary said the team was short-handed this weekend because five of his players were competing in the NJSIAA Group 2 state final for Gov. Livingston, and one player, Kellan Komline, played for Bridgewater-Raritan in the Group 4 final.

“We’re light on guys right now so I needed Contiliano to throw,” Cleary said. “He used to throw a little bit and he went right through that lineup. It was impressive. He pounded fastballs, threw a little knuckleball in there. We’ll take that every day.”

Contiliano, who went 2-for-3 for the Diamond Jacks with two runs scored, is coming off a brilliant high school season at the plate. He led Central in batting average and hits (30) and he was second in RBI (15) and runs scored (17) behind his brother (17 RBI, 20 runs).

Beast’s Mikey Calapai dives back to first with the Diamond Jacks’ Lorenzo Maselli covering the bag.

The Contiliano brothers led the Red Devils to a 16-11 record and a berth in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 final. 

“It felt great to contribute,” Contiliano said. “I had my brother by my side the whole time and that made it easier. He taught me what it’s going to be like, and my goal the whole time was just to keep the legacy going.”

The Diamond Jacks win over Beast gave the team a 2-1 pool play record for the weekend. They split a doubleheader on Friday evening, beating the Locked In Baseball Expos, 11-2, and losing to the Bucks County Generals, 5-2.

“I have a lot of faith in these guys, and they competed,” Cleary said. “I’m very happy with what they did. We have quite a few pitcher-only players hitting this weekend and playing defense. They competed and did their job.

The whole line up swung it well, and I don’t think we made a single error this weekend.”

The Diamond Jacks enjoyed an explosion of offense in the third inning to expand a one-run lead to a 7-1 cushion. Immaculata’s Owen Schilling was in the middle of it, swatting an RBI double to center. It was one of three RBI doubles for Schilling, who is coming off a solid high school season at the plate.

Schilling batted .304 with 21 hits and 15 RBI this spring for the 17-9 Spartans.

“It was a confidence-booster to play well this season,” said Schilling, a rising junior at the Somerset County school. “I was a young guy looking up to the older guys, just following the path. We had a tough season last year (9-15) but this year we came back and the older guys were more mature and we played together, so it was good to contribute like that.” 

Lorenzo Maselli had an RBI triple for the Diamond Jacks, John Rossman and 14U callup Luca Catanzarite both had an RBI double. 

Cole Raymond started for the Diamond Jacks and allowed one run over two innings, yielding one hit and four walks with three strikeouts. Will Sassman pitched the sixth and allowed one run on three hits and a hit batsman with one strikeout. 

The biggest hit of the game for Beast came from pinch-hitter Carlos Pereira, who curled an opposite-field, sixth-inning RBI double into the right field corner. John Drew drove in a run with a single in the second. 

Beast (0-1) was slated to play Northeast Pride 27 National on Saturday evening, and the Taconic Rangers on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

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