By Sean Reilly
Luke Fazulak had a great showing through Grit 12U Black’s first three games at the Diamond Nation Easter Extravaganza, hitting three home runs among other contributions that landed his team a spot in the championship game.
He performed even better in the final, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and RBI single as his Rockland County-based club beat the New York Longhorns 12U, 5-1, for the championship on Saturday afternoon in Flemington.
Fazulak, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, was also the Grit’s catcher in the final, and for good measure, threw out a runner trying to steal second from a sitting position.
It was the Grit’s first tournament of the season, and it finished 3-0-1 with a 61-6 run differential. It also avenged a 2022 loss to the Longhorns, who hail from Long Island..
“We lost to this team before, so we really wanted it,” Fazulak said. “They’re a good team. We’ve also got some new players this year, and they’re rocking it. They’re doing really well. Everyone also went into this tournament thinking we were going to win it.”
The Grit received a well-pitched game from starter Bryce Tesseyman, who allowed one run on two hits through the first five innings. He struck out nine and walked none.
The Longhorns, who ended the weekend with a 2-2 record, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, as second batter Logan Ho hit an opposite field home run over the left field fence. Tesseyman wasn’t rattled. He struck out the next batter looking and got third out on a fly ball to center field.
The Grit tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Fazulak singled to left field with one out and stole second. He moved to third when Tesseyman singled to center, and scored on Nick Mandio’s ground out to shortstop.
The score held until the bottom of the fourth, when Mandio homered on a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left field.
Longhorns starter Bryce Cutrone allowed five hits over his solid four inning stint, striking out three and walking two.
The Grit got to the Longhorns bullpen in the fifth, which started with a single to center by Nick Bricker (2-for-2) and a walk to Antoine Huet. After a fly out, Nick Fanelli drew a full count base-on-balls to load the bases.Tournament MVP Luke Fazulak
Dan Jaxel was up next, and a balk during his at-bat scored Bricker for a 3-1 lead. Jaxel was retired, but the next two batters — Steven Degree and Fazulak — each delivered a one-run single for the four-run lead.
“I’m seeing the ball well and playing with confidence,” Fazulak said.
Mandio pitched the final inning, and got two strikeouts, including the final out, to wrap up the victory.