Photo courtesy of C.B. Wilkins
Former Diamond Jack Joey DeChiaro short-circuited a Holy Cross rally in the eighth inning to help Old Dominion cruise to an 11-2 victory and a weekend series win in Norfolk, Va.
His fellow Diamond Jack, Christian Hlinka, homered twice for Virginia as the Cavaliers won their series against Bucknell.
DeChiaro, a 6-2, 220-pound lefthander from Flemington, N.J., entered the game with one out and Holy Cross runners on first and second base. Holy Cross had already pushed across two runs in the inning and was threatening to do more damage. But DeChiaro wasted no time getting his team back in the dugout.
DeChiaro got out of the jam in just three pitches, inducing weak ground balls to third base and second base to squelch the rally.
“I ended up throwing all fastballs out of the stretch,” said DeChiaro, “and got two outs in the blink of an eye with the help of my defense.”
Getting the call in the bullpen for his first college appearance is something DeChiaro will never forget.
“The kid before me ran into some walks and hits, so once I heard my name on the walkie talkie, I instantly blacked out, believe it or not” said DeChiaro. “It’s not like I was nervous, but, in my head, I was like, ‘this is where the next chapter begins.”
DeChiaro said he ran to the top of the bullpen mound, “took a couple throws and just starting throwing every pitch in my arsenal so I could be the best I could be out there. I got called in, went to the mound and just locked in on the catcher.” DeChiaro said he wanted to prove to his coaches he can be on the mound in any situation.
Old Dominion, which won the first game against Holy Cross, 5-2, before losing, 7-0, improved to 5-1 on the season with the victory in the series finale on Sunday. The Monarchs visit Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday for a mid-week confrontation. The Monarchs pitching staff leads the nation through two weeks with 14 strikeouts per-nine innings.
“The chemistry on this ball team is through the roof,” said DeChiaro. “We all get along great and everyone cares for one another. I think we can be a Top 25 team. The pitching staff is super talented. Every pitcher is mature and game-ready in any situation. I’m happy to be a part of this new journey with my new teammates.”
DeChiaro arrived at ODU after a stellar four-year career at Hunterdon Central in Flemington. He played in three NJSIAA Group 4 championship games and his team won two of them (2016 & ‘18). The big lefty set his high school’s record for career victories (26) and went 13-3 in county and state tournament games. He posted a 1.36 career ERA at Hunterdon Central while striking out 210 batters in 196.1 innings.
Hlinka, a junior outfielder at Virginia (5-3), hit a pair of home runs this past weekend when the Cavaliers won three-of-four games in a home series against Bucknell in Charlottesville, Virginia. He’s now 3-for-9 (.333) on the season with two HRs and six RBI.
Hlinka came to the plate as a pinch-hitter with a runner on second base in the first of two games against Bucknell on Saturday. “It was a fastball belt high on the inner half,” said the lefty-hitting Hlinka of his first home run. “I just crushed it off the scoreboard in right-center.” The two-run homer gave Virginia a 10-1 lead on its way to a 14-3 victory. It was the first pinch-hit home run by a Virginia player since 2018.
The Cavaliers lost the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, 14-10, but Hlinka chipped in with another home run, a solo shot in his third at bat of the game. “I was down 1-2 in the count and the kid tried elevating a fastball inside and I turned on it, hitting a lined drive into the bullpen in right field.”
Hlinka, a Delaware Valley High School grad, missed the entire 2019 season due to an ankle injury. He got his groove back playing for the Charlottesville Tom Sox in the summer Valley League, batting .346 with three HRs and 26 RBI as he helped guide the team to the league championship. His summer experience and a good fall season seem to have gotten the talented Hlinka back on track.
“I’m super pumped to be getting at bats and playing more, too,” said Hlinka. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.” The Cavs play host to William & Mary today (Tuesday) before Dartmouth visits Charlottesville for a three-game weekend series.