Expos’ Rotundo builds case in taming Northeast Pride

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 28, 2023

Andrew Weinbaum of Northeast Pride heads to first base in Tuesday’s Super 17 game.

By Joe Hofmann

The Name: Nick Rotundo.

The Position: Pitcher.

The Team: Locked in Baseball Expos 16U Blue.

The Goal: Pitching for a Division 1 team.

Can he make it? Right now, the jury is out – but evidence is mounting.

Rotundo is building a solid case.

If he needs any character witnesses, he can call on Northeast Pride 24 Prime, most of whom were bamboozled by him Tuesday morning.

The left-handed Rotundo dominated Pride on the way to a four-inning 11-1 mercy rule victory in the Super 17 Invitational (Week 2) held at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Rotundo used an 80-82 mph fastball, curve, and changeup on the way to a seven-strikeout, two-walk, two-hit gem. And he did it despite a steady drizzle that resulted in not only a wet baseball at times but a slippery mound that altered his landing. He had to let up a little while coming down on the mound, which cut his velocity a tick or two.

No matter, he still dominated by striking out the side in the second inning and fanning two more in the third.

“I felt confident with all three of my pitches,” said Rotundo, a junior-to-be at West Morris in Long Valley, NJ. “I was able to change eye levels and throw strikes.”

Again, the evidence for Rotundo reaching the next level is growing.

“That’s been him for us in all three of his outings,” coach Chris Bagley said. “Our starting pitching overall has been really good. Nick struggled with his footing but he is a strike thrower and he knows how to pitch.

“He located, changed speeds. It makes your job so much easier when you can do that.”

Rotundo is coming off a first-team All-Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference season as a sophomore pitcher in the rugged NJAC National. He pitched complete-game victories over such solid programs as Randolph, Sparta, and Immaculata. He was also invited to pitch in the Garden State Games earlier this month.

Rotundo’s outing against Pride has been typical of Locked In’s pitching since convening on June 6. This is the team’s third tournament at Diamond Nation and they have excelled in every outing. The team is 7-1 during that stretch with two ties (and even then, they pitched well in games that finished knotted at 1-1 and 3-3).

Lefthander Nick Rotundo of Locked In Expos guided his team to victory on Tuesday.

Though he seemed on top of his game against Pride, Rotundo believes he has a way to go if he wants to become a college pitcher. He believes he needs more velocity and sharper command of his offspeed pitches. He also feels as though he needs to better control his opponent’s running game.

“I’m confident I can,” he said.

Locked In’s hitting didn’t exactly rip the cover off the ball but the lineup was efficient at getting on base by working counts and taking advantage of the wildness of three different Pride pitchers.

Locked In’s Ryan Barber opened the game by reaching on a base hit against starter and loser Reilly Dineen. Samuel Berk walked and Michael Stigliano was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch scored Barber and another wild pitch plated Berk.

The team scored four more runs in the bottom of the second with only one hit. Luc Bush drew the first of his team’s four walks during the frame. Dominic Correale singled in a run, Chase Bagley was hit by a pitch (the first of two times he was hit in the game), before Barber, Berk, and Stigliano walked. A wild pitch scored Bagley.

Things began further getting away from Pride when reliever Jayde Brown came in for Dineen and struck out Wesley Maksimow –  but the ball eluded catcher Brian Hoffman and Hoffman’s throw to first was too late to nail Maksimow, scoring another run.

Brandon Kim followed with an infield single, scoring Berk with the fourth run of the frame, making it 6-0.

“Our lineup has been great, especially the top of the lineup,” Bagley said. “Barber, Berk, and Maksimow have been getting on. Our two-strike approach has been great. I’d say that half of our runs have come with two outs and two strikes on the batter. We take pride in not striking out and putting good wood or aluminum on the ball.”

The Expos continued taking advantage of Pride wildness in the third inning with a two-out rally.

Lucas Durkin singled, Correale walked and Bagley was hit for the second straight time to load the bases.

Durkin came in on a wild pitch. Barber reached on an infield error that allowed both Correale and Bagley to score.

Brown began the bottom of the fourth by walking three and hitting a batter – Pride pitching’s fourth hit batsman of the game – before being replaced by Nick Caputo, who allowed Durkin’s two-run double to deep left, ending the game.

There was one bright light for Pride when Aiden Gallagher smoked a Rotundo pitch to deep left for a solo home run in the fourth inning.

But Pride wasn’t able to get any closer because of the pitching of Rotundo and the Expos taking advantage of the Pride’s wildness.

“It’s nice when you pitch a shutout inning and then you get two runs in the first inning,” Rotundo said. “Then we get a four-spot (in the second). We have a great offense and I’m very confident in them.”

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