Mateo Noto went 4-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored for Team Elite Liberty.
By Rich Bevensee
A week ago, Team Elite Liberty was a ballclub in search of direction and motivation after losing all three of its games in a Staten Island tournament.
A week later this same group is the toast of the 16U Diamond Nation Super 16 World Series after going undefeated in four contests with the best overall scoring aggregate in the 33-team field.
Team Elite Liberty polished off its four-game week with a 15-3 victory over previously unbeaten PS2 Academy on Friday morning at ‘The Nation’ in Flemington. That victory cemented a first place finish in the tournament and a berth in the Super 16 Top 25 tournament set for Aug. 14-18 at Diamond Nation.
Hudson Reed allowed two runs over four innings and Mateo Noto went 4-for-5 with an RBI for Liberty.
“We collectively had a decision to make,” said Noto, a Brooklyn native and a rising junior at Beacon High in New York City. “After that (Staten Island) tournament we could either go through the motions and get our at bats and do what we can to get in front of (college) coaches, or we could compete and win games. I think we all agreed on going out there to compete. That’s what we all love. Everyone on this team does it. This is the best group of guys and I wouldn’t want to be around anyone else.”
What makes Team Elite Liberty’s four-game sweep at Diamond Nation even more interesting is that the team’s ninth player didn’t arrive until PS2 took the field to begin the game. Apparently that player forgot his cleats, so he drove all the way back to Staten Island to retrieve them and then return to Diamond Nation. Adversity reveals passion.
The 15-3 win capped an incredible offensive week for Liberty, which outscored the opposition 47-10 and was one of only three 4-0 teams in the highly competitive event.
“Our ninth player went all the way home, about an hour away, to get his cleats. I thanked him for doing that, and that’s just an example of how resilient these guys are,” Liberty coach Matt Santamauro said. “We went 0-3 last week at a TKR tournament in Staten Island and I think that woke everybody up and they said to themselves, ‘hey, we’re better than this.’ To be able to come out here and win these games like this in the fashion that we did is a testament to them. I give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done.”
Cillian Morrissey ignited Team Elite Liberty’s 15-run outburst with an RBI single in the first inning.
PS2 outscored three prior opponents 22-6 before facing Team Elite Liberty, but Reed, a rising sophomore righty at Poly Prep, quieted those bats by permitting two runs on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts in four innings.
“Hudson threw a lot of strikes,” Santamauro said. “Obviously it’s not like he has to throw 85 and throw it by these guys. It’s sometimes better to use the defense. He did a really good job of keeping us in the game, especially on a day we were pretty shorthanded with pitching.”
Reed’s outing was cut short as he took the mound for the fifth inning. He developed a blister on his forefinger and a cut on his ring finger of his pitching hand.
“I kept pitching on the seam and it was tearing up my finger on an open blister, and I got a cut on my ring finger,” said the 6-1, 145-pound Reed, who primarily used his fastball to mix with his curveball and changeup. “I started moving the changeups and I wasn’t putting any pressure on it. The fastball didn’t have anything on it at all.”
William Nook, a position player who began the game at shortstop, pitched the final two innings and allowed one run on four hits.
Noto was the hitting star for Team Elite, but seven of nine Liberty batters had a base hit, and all nine reached base and scored at least once.
Noto got Team Elite going in the first inning with the game’s first hit, he stole second and scored on a Cillian Morrissey hit for a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Noto singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch to ignite a four-run rally. Devon McMorris had an RBI single before Tristan Zam knocked PS2 pitcher Andy Rodriguez out of the game with a line drive that struck Rodriguez’ pitching hand. That shot drove in a run, and Zam later stole home for a 5-0 Liberty lead.
PS2 came alive in the bottom of the second with a pair of runs. Leo Spitaleri forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk against Reed, and Matt Caruso scored on a balk.
Team Elite got those two runs right back in the third, as John Calabrese stole third and took home on a throwing error, and Noto singled, stole second, took third on error and stole home on a double steal for a 7-2 lead.
PS2 chipped away for a run in the fifth on a Caruso RBI groundout.
Team Elite poured it on in the top of the sixth inning, sending 13 batters to the plate and unleashing an eight-run rally, all with two out.
Paluszek tripled to right to drive in a run and scored on a double steal. Zam had an RBI single and William Nook knocked in two runs with a single to right for a 12-3 lead.
Calabrese, Noto and Morrissey all had RBI singles to finish off the scoring for Team Elite.
“Mateo has been the guy, batting in the 2-3 hole all summer, and all he’s done is hit,” Santamauro said. “He’ll have an opportunity to play college baseball at a high level, and he’s the perfect guy to have in the middle of our lineup. I love coaching him.”
“My hitting’s been great,” Noto said. “I had a really solid high school season and used what I learned and what I worked on in the offseason with my hitting coach and people around me – to keep a steady approach. Everything about me I carried into the batter’s box.
“Last year I was playing varsity and I was doing my thing but I had a bit of a strikeout problem. This year my biggest adjustment is to have a more disciplined approach with two strikes.”
This week Team Elite Liberty defeated Intensity Baseball 3-2, Canes N.Y. 16U 12-2, FBA Jays 16U 17-3 and PS2 15-3.
PS2 defeated Philadelphia Prime 4-3, Game on Fury Elite 8-3, and Intensity Baseball 16U 10-0 before bowing to Team Elite.