Marc Hernandez had the best seat in the house for the most dominant pitching performances of Diamond Nation’s Super 17 World Series – Powered by Victus.
The performance by Complete Performance Baseball Academy 18U was indeed complete as it sapped the power from its tournament opponents in the 5-day, 45-team scramble for gold. Or, in this case, a Victus bat.
Tournament sponsor Victus Bats awarded a bat to each of the finalists.
Hernandez guided the CP Baseball pitching staff from behind the plate and delivered one key hit after another as the Fairfield-based squad rolled to a 7-0 tournament record. Hernandez, also Group 2 champion Pascack Hills’ catcher, was named the Super 17 World Series Most Valuable Player.
CP Baseball pitchers permitted just three runs in the team’s final six games, capping the impressive tournament run with a 4-1 victory over Locked In Expos Blue in the championship game.
“Our pitching was dynamite,” said Hernandez.
That’s very much how it went in the final, too, when righthander John Luberto took the mound and dominated a very good Locked In lineup for the first 4.1 innings. Luberto, working quickly, registered every one of his 13 outs by strikeout, utilizing a hard fastball and deftly placed curveball to keep the Locked In batters on their heels.
“John was pitching like he was double-parked,” said CP Baseball coach Frank Clark.
Hernandez agreed to the point he felt he needed to back his pitcher down a notch. Jared Zimbardo led off the game with a triple to right-center field but he never moved from third base as Luberto struck out the next three batters.
“John was working pretty fast in the first inning, too fast,” said Hernandez. “We wanted him to focus on hitting spots and staying clam and composed.”
Luberto, a Nutley grad bound for Rutgers, did take a breath between pitches after that but not much else, as he struck out the side in the second and third innings while permitting just a walk to Lucas Rich.
“They weren’t catching on,” said Luberto of the Locked In batters who never tried to interrupt his pace. Locked In got its first two batters on in the fourth as Zimbardo drew a walk and T.J. Lasko singled to left field, but Luberto re-focused and struck out the next three batters to run his strikeout total to 12 in four innings.
Locked In starter Garrett Fitchen, conversely, shut out CP Baseball over the first three innings without the benefit of a strikeout. And reliever Anthony Rubino pitched a scoreless fourth. Both teams, however, would break through in the fifth.
Matt Lee drew a leadoff walk off Luberto in the top of the fifth before the righthander rebounded with a strikeout. Lee had stolen second with Lucas Rich at the plate before Luberto walked Rubino. Clark had seen enough and came and got his starter in favor of righty Chris Curcio. Lee then stole third and scored the game’s first run when Curcio uncorked a wild pitch.
A strike-‘em out, throw-‘em out got Curcio out of further trouble and preceded a big bottom of the fourth for CP Baseball.
It was Curcio, the eventual winning pitcher, who would start a four-run outburst for CP Baseball with a leadoff single to right field. It was only the team’s third hit of the game. Socrates Bardastos drew a walk and John Whooley singled to right to load the bases with no outs. CP Baseball would then score four runs without a ball leaving the infield.
Mike Rodriguez hit a fielder’s choice bouncer to the left side against Locked In’s second reliever Justin Cassella, scoring Curcio with the tying run. But Bardastos came in, too, as the throw to first got away. Hernandez then delivered the third run with a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop. Colin Armstead’s grounder would get a runner in a rundown for the second out as Rodriguez scored the fourth run of the inning.
Curcio would close out the championship by retiring all seven batters he faced, striking out three of them. CP Baseball would register 16 strikeouts in all. Luberto’s line was eyeball rubbing. He permitted one run on two hits, struck out 13 and walked four.
“We were able to answer their one run with four of our own,” said Clark. “And Chris came in and did a great job in relief.”
Hernandez had five hits in tournament and four of them were triples and he drove in five runs. “It seemed like every one of his hits was big,” said Clark. “He had a big hit against Jersey Boyz (in pool play).
Hernandez had entered the tournament in a bit of a slump, so went to work trying to remedy the problem.
“I opened up my stance and tried to drive the ball the other way,” said Hernandez. “I was trying to keep balanced in my legs. It worked.”
Complete Performance Baseball was extremely balanced in its game, be it pitching, hitting or defense. The team outscored its tournament opponents 43-7. Locked In Expos Blue (6-1) had an excellent tournament, too, outscoring its opponents 47-20.
Locked In won its semifinal game in come-from-behind fashion. It rallied from a 6-3 deficit with three runs in the top of the sixth to tie the Diamond Jacks Super 16U, 6-6. The game went to the eighth inning and the International Tiebreaker. The Expos scored a run in the top of the eighth and held off the Diamond Jacks in the bottom for a 7-6 victory.