DiIusto leads LIB Expos to comeback at 11U King of the Diamond

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 13, 2024

Nico DiIusto reaches home plate after his game-tying two-run home run for the Expos. 

By Sean Reilly

He may only be an 11U competitor, but Nico DiIusto has played enough baseball at Diamond Nation to know that as long as a team plays hard and maintains focus, it has a chance to win. 

That’s why he felt his Locked In Baseball Expos team still had hope, even when it spotted the NY Prospects Gold a six-run lead in second inning on Friday night at the 11U King of the Diamond tournament in Flemington. 

Sure enough, the Morris County-based Expos scratched back, and eventually earned an 8-7 victory in the opening pool play game for both teams.

DiIusto played a huge role by hitting a two-run home run for a 6-6 tie with two out in the top of the fourth, and by pitching the final 3⅓  innings, allowing just one run on one hit, for the win. 

“We never got down,” he said. “It was impressive. That’s why we came back and won. We never give up.” 

In gaining the victory, the Expos overcame a tremendous hitting performance by Alex Torres of the NY Prospects, who went 3-for-3 with a double, two home runs and five RBI.

Christian Rivera of NY Prospects delivers to Casey Beard of the LIB Expos with a rainbow visible.

The Expos broke a 7-7 tie in the top of the sixth. Noah Gonzalez led off with a grounds rule double to left-center field, moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored when a throw from the catcher back to the pitcher, after a pitch to next batter Will Kanjo, wasn’t caught. That would prove to be the winning run. 

In the bottom of the inning, the NY Prospects got a full-count walk with one out. The Expos, however, turned a crisp 4-6-3 double play, with second baseman Casey Beard fielding a sharp grounder and tossing to shortstop Chris Fassnacht for an out at second, before Fassnacht fired to Bruno Venturelli for the game-ending out at first.

“I was just trying to throw strikes, because I knew the team could play defense,” DiIusto said.

The NY Prospects built their 6-0 lead by scoring three times in both the first and second innings.

In the opening inning, leadoff man John Cavallo was hit by a pitch and Angelo Urrico followed with a single before Torres hit a one-run double to left-center. Andrew Ullo followed with an RBI single to center and Anthony Arnone was safe on an error to score another run before the first out was recorded.

In the bottom of the second, Christian Rivera singled to center with one out, and he advanced to third when Cavallo followed with a double to center. After a pop out to shortstop, Torres crushed a three-run home run over the fence in center field for the Prospects’ 6-0 lead.

NY Prospects first baseman Andrew Trinidad stretches to receive throw for an out.

The Expos began their comeback by scoring four times in the third. 

Aidan Finizio led off with a single to left field, and moved to third as DiIusto was safe on a two-base error. After a line out to second base, Charlie Bealer hit an RBI single to left field. With runners on first and second, Beard hit an RBI single to the outfield, and an error on the play scored the second runner. Bealer scored when Fassnacht followed with a single to left. 

The Expos tied it in the fourth. Kanjo singled to center with one out, and after advancing a base on a ground out, DiIusto followed with his homer to deep left-center. 

“I was looking for that exact pitch,” he said. “It was a fastball straight down the middle.” 

The Expos took a 7-6 lead in the fifth, after Fassnacht reached on a dropped pop up with two out, stole second, and scored when Patrick Collins doubled to left-center. 

The NY Prospects tied it in the bottom of the inning when Torres hit a one-out home run to center. 

The Expos second game on Friday was a 3-2 setback to Diamond Jacks Super 11U (2-0). They’ll close out pool play against the CJ Rebels KS (0-2) on Saturday night.

The NY Prospects Gold bounced back on Friday with a 10-4 win over CJ Rebels. They’ll meet the Diamond Jacks Super 11U in their pool finale on Saturday night.

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