By Sean Reilly
The score was tied with two out and nobody on base in the top of the sixth inning when Domenico Fanelli stepped to the plate for Westchester (NY) Pride of Proswing 12U on Saturday afternoon at Diamond Nation.
As he readied himself in the batter’s box, the fifth batter and right fielder had a specific strategy in mind. “I went up there and I had a plan,” he said. “I wanted to make solid contact and try and find a gap.”
Fanelli did one better. After taking the first pitch, he sent the second offering over the fence in left-center field, and his team held on after reliever Matthew Fieffe struck out the side in the bottom of the inning for a 7-6 victory over Gambrill’s Athletics (Maryland) at the Diamond Nation April Fool’s Tournament in Flemington.
The victory completed a successful first day in the tournament for the Pride, who played to a 3-3 tie earlier in the day against the Delmarva Aces. Next up for the Pride (1-0-1) is a 10 a.m. game on Sunday opposite WV Rebels Blue.
Fanelli’s blast was the only home run in the game, and it came after Gambrill’s scored three times in the bottom of the fifth for a 6-6 tie.
“I took the first pitch, and then the next one, I saw my pitch and drove it over the fence,” he said. “It felt amazing.”
“In tournament baseball, it’s what are you going to do right now to help your team out,” said Pride coach Chris Simone. “He came up in a big, huge spot, and got a hold of one and helped his team.”
The Pride scored once in the top of the first inning and five times in the second for a 6-0 lead. The big hits in the second inning were a two-run double by Giovanni LaPeruta and a two-run single from Mike Lucia.
Gambrill’s, which beat the WV Rebels-Blue, 9-7, in its morning game, scored three times in the second inning before its three-run fifth knotted the score. Cam Smith had a RBI single in the second. Greg Miteff hit a two-run base hit in the fifth before Conrad Astorga added a run-scoring single for a 6-6 score with nobody out. Reliever Declan Herlihy then retired the next three batters for the Pride.
After Fanelli’s long ball gave the Pride the lead, the hard-throwing Fieffe decisively struck out the side to end the game.
The Pride has enjoyed the experience of playing at Diamond Nation.
“It’s not easy to win here,” Simone, the Pride coach, said. “It’s 100 percent why we come here. We want close games, we want to play the best teams and we want to fight as hard as possible. That’s what this is all about for them. They want to compete, they want to battle and we don’t want it to be easy. We tied in the first game and held on to win here against two solid teams.”
Gambrill’s Athletics (1-1) squares off with the Delmarva Aces 12U East at 10 a.m. today. Gambrill’s and the Pride are still in the mix for one of the four playoff spots.