Time To Sign first baseman Jake Merz digs out throw for an out.
By Sean Reilly
There’s a special feeling of in-control confidence that all pitchers strive for, but don’t often reach, especially at a place like Diamond Nation, where dominating opposing hitters is always a challenge.
On Saturday, Nick Fassert of Northeast Prime ‘24 Scout was performing at that level.
Fassert allowed one hit – to the first batter in the top of the first inning – while throwing six shutout innings as Northeast Pride ‘24 Scout defeated Time To Sign, 6-3, at the Diamond Nation 17/18U Wood Bat Championship, Powered By Victus, in Flemington.
Fassert, a 5-10, 140-pound senior right-hander from John Jay-Cross River High School (N.Y.) and a recent Amherst College commit, totaled 10 strikeouts (four looking) against three walks.
His day went beyond those numbers. One of the walks came to the third batter of the game. Another was followed by a double play ground ball. And the few fly ball outs were of the can-of-corn variety.
“The fastball and curveball were working really well together,” said Fassert, whose team was playing its first game of the fall season. He was thus pitching for the first time in several weeks after taking a well-deserved break. “I just had to go out and challenge hitters and get that curveball on the outside part of the plate. It worked well.”
He allowed a leadoff hit to Nicholas Gallello in the first, and after a strikeout, a walk to Carter Wuestenhoefer. But the lead runner was thrown out trying to take third by catcher Britton Marko after a pitch bounced on the turf. A called strike three ended the inning.
Then came the bottom of the first, in which Northeast Pride ‘24 Scout took control by scoring five times.
The first three batters – Austin Droge, Marko and Mitchell Folina – all walked. After a strikeout, Scott LaMountain hit a one-run single to center on a full-count pitch.
Matt Boffalo was up next, and hit a two-run single to left field. Following a strikeout, Mason Gove added a two-run single to center for a 5-0 score.
With a growing confidence in his stuff, and sizable lead to work with, Fassert then became dominant.
“Once we got the lead, I just felt so comfortable,” he said. “I felt really good. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s an unreal feeling, but you just know that you’re the best out there on the field.”
And there was doubt that for those six innings on Field 3 at ‘The Nation,’ Fassert truly was, even coming off of his break of almost a month.
He wasn’t worried about feeling any rust upon the return.
“I knew I just had to stay calm and do what I always do,” he said
The game did become dicey in the final inning.
Matt Boffalo of Northeast Pride ‘24 Scout scores on hit by Mason Gove during five-run first inning.
Northeast Pride ‘24 Scout scored what turned out to be an important run in the bottom of the sixth, when Droge hit an RBI double for a 6-0 lead with one out.
The final out of the inning was recorded on a ground out to first base with only a few seconds left on the 1:40 game block, so Time To Sign got a chance to hit in the seventh inning.
Northeast Pride ‘24 Scout went to its bullpen in that frame, and with inclement weather rapidly closing in on the area, the first two batters walked and the third was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
The next batter struck out before Wuestenhoefer hit a ground ball that resulted in a run scoring, with a force out also recorded at second base.
Runners were now on the corners, but a wild pitch on a ball four narrowed the deficit to 6-2. A hit-by-pitch reloaded the bases before Matt Cancelliere walked on a full count to get Time To Sign within 6-3 with the bases still loaded. A fly out to left field then ended the game, with a downpour arriving seconds later.
Northeast Pride ‘24 Scout completes play at the tournament on Sunday with games against TBT Ballers NY 2025 and the Diamond Jacks Super 17U.
Time To Sign has Sunday matchups against those same two teams.
There are no playoffs in the event, but the top eight finishers in the 60-team field qualify for the Columbus Day Showdown at Diamond Nation in October.