By Rich Bevensee
Braden Edelle is one heck of a pitcher and a pretty good shortstop, too, but modesty has to be one of his very best qualities.
Displaying a knack for consistently throwing a heavy ball inside the strike zone, Edelle fashioned a near-perfect three innings for the East Hanover Hornets on Saturday. The most difficult part of his afternoon turned out to be accepting credit for his efforts in his post-game comments.
“I’m just trying to reach out and hit the catcher in the glove,” said Edelle, who struck out six in three innings while facing one batter over the minimum and led the Hornets to a 10-0, five-inning pool play victory over Diamond Jacks 10U in the Home Run Classic at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“I’m trying to pitch to contact, and sometimes they don’t hit it and you get a strikeout,” Edelle said. “But mostly I’m just trying to get the out.”
Edelle and teammate Anthony DiStefano made quite a formidable combination on the mound. Edelle allowed only one hit and a hit batsman (who was later erased attempting to steal) in his three innings, DiStefano came on in relief and struck out two and walked one in two innings. Together they did not allow a single Diamond Jacks runner to reach second base.
East Hanover coach Joe Cheringal said Edelle and DiStefano are just two of his trusted arms on the bench. Earlier on Saturday, the Hornets threw five pitchers in a 7-3 triumph over Bulldogs 10U.
“We actually like to mix it up and we have a bunch of guys who can throw,” Cheringal said. “When we looked at this tournament, we saw it as an opportunity to throw a bunch of guys early and we have a few more guys who didn’t throw today who will throw tomorrow. We have nine or 10 pitchers so we’re excited for this tournament.
The Hornets have a rematch with the DJacks on Sunday at 9 a.m. to complete pool play. The 10U championship game is slated for 11 a.m.
The Diamond Jacks took it on the chin twice on Saturday, having lost 12-10 to Locked In Baseball Expos 10U Blue.
Nate McGann recorded the only DJacks base hit against the Hornets. Anthony Bott and Jack Bower combined efforts on the mound.
The Hornets showed a penchant for backing up terrific pitching by swinging big bats, collecting eight hits, five of them doubles. The hardest hit came off the bat of Ryan Chernigal, East Hanover’s No. 3 hitter, who sent coaches ducking for cover with two straight foul ball lasers down the right field line. On the next pitch Cheringal hammered a grounds rule, RBI double which bounced over the right field fence in the top of the fifth inning.
“When our pitchers are doing well it keeps us calm because they know how to pitch, and it helps us settle down at the plate,” Chernigal said. “We know if they shut them down then we can calm down at the plate.”
Liam Wood led the Hornets by going 2 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Edelle helped his own cause by going 1 for 2 with an RBI double, a walk and a run scored. Lorenzo Lombardo doubled, walked and scored once, Brendan Dunn had an RBI double, and Collin Swingle also collected a two-bagger.
A.J. Rossi and Dante Elwood both knocked in a run for the Hornets.
“Almost our whole group has been playing together since they were seven,” Cheringal said. “They have a lot of experience together, learning, growing. Our boys feed off each other. They see someone do well, they want to do well.”
All of that offense was more than comforting to Edelle, who explained how he remains on point while on the hill.
“I usually work on my release point, which is right at my eyes, and pulling my glove into my chest so I can throw it right over my ear,” Edelle said. “And when the guys are hitting it’s great because you know you can make a mistake and they’re there to back you up.”
“He’s our strike thrower,” Cheringal said. “He’s all over the zone, he’s got good speed, a nice off-speed pitch, so when he’s on, he’s really on.”
The East Hanover defense wasn’t too shabby, either. Cheringal and Edelle were steady at shortstop, cleanly handling four chances of the eight balls the DJacks put in play. Edelle also snared a grounder up the middle and pounced on second while lying prone on the turf to get a force out. And catcher Brendan Dunn threw out a baserunner trying to steal second.
For the DJacks, Bott allowed six hits and two walks while striking out three in four innings, and Bower permitted two hits and two walks with a strikeout in his one inning of relief.
The DJacks highlight of the game was a web gem from catcher Garrett Garlits. With Cheringal on second, Edelle doubled to left. Garlits fielded an off-line throw home and leaped toward the plate to nail Cheringal trying to score.