Cardinals Robbie Lynn deals to Next Level’s James Dixon during his four shutout innings.
By Bob Behre
Three critical elements permeated the North Jersey Cardinals 25’s 8-3 victory over the Next Level Prospects on Wednesday at Diamond Nation.
The Cardinals received a tidy performance from starting pitcher Robbie Lynn. Their No. 3 hitter Frank Dasti delivered the big blast of the game. And the Union-Essex County-based club showed a ravenous ability to feast on its opponent’s gift-giving.
The Cardinals closed their stay at the 17/18U Blue Chip Prospects tournament with a third victory in four tries this week but more than likely will find themselves just a bit on the outside looking in at the qualifiers for the Super 17 Top 20 that is scheduled for Aug. 14-18.
The Cardinals, however, have very little to be disappointed about after a summer in which the team – while playing predominantly up a grade level – registered an impressive 28-4 record.
“We’re a 2025 group and we mostly competed against ‘24s this summer,” said Cardinals coach Frank Dasti, Frank’s father. “They’ve played very well together.” When this group of rising juniors did play against their peers, in Georgia, the results were even more inspiring.
The 2025 Cardinals went 5-0 in pool play in Georgia before falling in the semifinals to the eventual tournament champion, finishing 6-1 on an especially satisfying trip south.
The only real trouble Lynn experienced against Next Level came in the bottom of the first inning when he surrendered singles to Giancarlo Rengifo and Julio Frometa around a pair of outs. But Lynn got out of that early jam unscathed and would allow just one baserunner over his final three innings.
Lynn used a steady diet of curveballs, in all counts, to vex Next Level’s batters.
“I like the curveball-fastball combination,” said Lynn, who plays shortstop for Livingston High School. The curveball was working, so I stayed with it.” He often started batters with the breaking ball and even got one batter swinging at a bender on a 3-2 count.
BEFORE: Cardinals’ Frank Dasti eyeballs a fastball with two on in the third inning.
“I’m not going to blow it by anyone, but I want to limit the walks and let my fielders, who I trust, field the ball behind me,” said Lynn.
Lynn permitted no runs on just three hits over four innings, striking out three and walking none. “Robbie competes,” said coach Dasti. “His breaking ball complements his fastball and he keeps it in the strike zone.”
Lynn received some quick support from his teammates, who struck for four runs in the top of the first inning on a single hit, an error and three free bases provided by Next Level’s starter Joe Pritchard.
Nick Filipponi led off and was hit by a pitch before Julian Schultz and Dasti
Drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with none out. Alex Adornato then hit a bouncer toward the middle that looked like a possible double play, but the exchange at second was mishandled as Filipponi scored the game’s first run.
Dylan Gardner followed with a two-run bloop single to right-center field and Mike Ramirez brought home Adornato on a sac fly to left to cap the four-run uprising.
AFTER: Frank Dasti drove that fastball over the fence in left field for a three-run home run.
Filipponi and Schultz each drew a walk with one out in the third to bring Dasti to the plate. The Dayton High shortstop, who has had a busy first two days of August fielding inquiries from Division 1 coaches, jumped on the second pitch from Pritchard and drove it over the left field fence for a three-run home run and a 7-0 lead.
“He threw me a breaking ball low on the first pitch,” said Dasti. “I was looking for a fastball that I could hit hard somewhere. It’s a great feeling seeing the ball go over the fence, especially with a wood bat.”
Harry Woodard helped create another run for the Cardinals in the fourth inning. He reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and came all the way around to score on Tyler Weber’s infield hit. Weber beat out a slow bouncer to the left side as Woodward raced to third. The shortstop’s hurried throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag on the right field side of the base. Woodward never broke stride and raced home before the first baseman could recover in time to get him at the plate.
Next Level, also 3-1 in the Blue Chip, was in danger of losing via the eight-run mercy rule when it came to bat in the bottom of the fifth. But Gardner, who came in to relieve Lynn, walked the bases loaded around a strikeout.
He then induced a fly ball to right field for the second out, but the fly was deep enough to enable James Dixon to tag and score his team’s first run, buying it at least another at bat in the sixth. Mike Schwartz then hit a bouncer toward the middle that the Cardinals second baseman bobbled, allowing Marcus Harrison to score from third. Vito LaRosa scored the third run of the inning all the way from second base on what started as a pickoff attempt at first and ended as a wild throw to third to try to get LaRosa.
Gardner ended Next Level’s rally right there with a strikeout and Abinet Huff closed out the final two innings for the Cardinals. Huff hit the first batter he faced in the sixth, but catcher Filipponi quickly gunned him down trying to steal second. Huff then retired the next five batters he faced in order to send the Cardinals home for the summer.
NOTES: Dasti’s phone has been busy since yesterday (Aug. 1), the first day Division 1 coaches can contact players. He said he had seven Division 1 inquiries yesterday and a few more today (Aug. 2).
“It’s a fun experience and something you can’t take for granted,” he said. “All my hard work is paying off.”
The “contact period” is Aug. 1-20 during which Division 1 college coaches may contact players. A recruiting “quiet period” follows before another “contact period” opens again Sept. 15-to-Oct. 8.
Dasti’s outstanding summer followed a terrific high school campaign in which the sophomore batted .489 with 43 hits, 31 runs, 16 doubles and 26 RBI. His Group 1 Jonathan Dayton (Springfield) squad was 15-12 last spring and returns almost its entire roster next spring.