By Will Harrigan
The shift over to the big diamond can be a major adjustment for 13U players, and as such, mistakes usually tend to naturally happen throughout the course of the game.
Sunday night’s 13U August Showdown final was nothing of the case.
Northeast Pride – hailing from the Scranton, Pa. area – and the West Chester Dragons put on a clinic, and after only one hour and 28 minutes of nearly error free baseball, it was a double steal of home that ultimately gave NE Pride a 1-0 victory in the 13U final at Diamond Nation.
In a battle of undefeated clubs, the Pride capped off their weekend at ‘The Nation’ with a 5-0 mark, outscoring their opponents 32-9. The Dragons wrapped up their tournament at 4-1. Noah Fetko – who threw a complete game shutout in a close game wire-to-wire for the champions – garnered tournament MVP honors.
It was a terrific pitcher’s duel between Fetko and Tyler Homick. Each pitcher went the distance and a lone run in the second proved to be the difference.
“Noah has struggled a bit on the mound lately, but to go out there under the lights and do that just says it all,” said Pride coach Carmine Palummo, who played his high school ball here at St. Joseph’s of Montvale. “Everything seemed like strike one, and he had a good balance of strikeouts and pitching to contact.”
The lone run scored by the Pride came in the top half of the second. Center-fielder Caleb Sosa got aboard with a one-out single. Following a pop to short, Christopher Simone laced an opposite field single to right to put runners on the corners.
Noah Fetko of Northeast Pride was named the 13U August Showdown MVP.
With two outs, Palummo then put a steal sign on for Simone, which led to Sosa breaking for home – and ultimately scoring – on the throw down to second base.
“I think Chris may have been out by a foot or two if he was tagged, but they threw for home. I told myself, ‘we just stole a run right there,’” said Palummo. ”As it turned out, it was the only one in the game.”
Looking for insurance, the Pride would load the bases with one out in the sixth. A wild pitch thrown by Homick careened right back to catcher Aidan Capobianco, allowing him to tag out the runner bolting in from third. Homick would then drop a curveball on the outside corner for a called third strike to get out of the jam.
Blake Frazier’s single in the third was followed by a wild pitch, a strikeout recorded by Fetko, and another wild pitch. With a runner on third, Fetko induced a comebacker off Tanner Ruhland’s bat to keep the Dragons off the board.
A called third strike with a man on third in the fourth allowed Fetko to wiggle out of a similar situation. It was smooth sailing from there for Fetko, who retired the last 10 batters of the game in order to close it out on a strong note.
The semifinal – a 3-2 victory over Body Armor Titans – also presented a close call for the Pride on the way to the title.
“We basically cruised through the group but we got challenged in the semis and obviously in this game,” said Palummo. “The guys met the challenge and that’s a great sign for us moving into 14U in the fall.”