Dom Inzilla of Allentown Legion approaches home plate after belting game-breaking grand slam.
By Sean Reilly
Sean Heissler’s pitching objective was quite clear on Thursday night at Diamond Nation.
Heissler was the starter for Allentown Legion, and he was tasked with giving an effort that would send his team past Hustle Baseball Academy in a Fall League semifinal contest.
“I had to go out there, and throw to my max, which was 50 pitches,” he said. “And help get my team to the final.”
Heissler did his part, by allowing one unearned run over four scoreless innings. His teammates did the rest by doing their usual potent work with their bats, and the outcome was a 9-5 victory in Flemington.
The victory was the 10th straight for third-seeded Allentown Legion (10-1), earning it a berth against top-seeded Whitehouse Post 284 later on Thursday in the Fall League championship game. Second-seeded Hustle Baseball Academy ended its league season with a 14-3 record.
Rutgers-bound Jack Sweeney went 2-for-2 with two walks for Allentown Legion, including a solo home run with two out in the top of the first inning.
Dom Inzilla, meanwhile, delivered the big blow for Allentown Legion, by hitting a one-out grand slam in the fourth for a 9-1 lead.
After Sweeney’s blast over the fence in left field in the first inning, Hustle Baseball Academy tied it in the bottom of the frame.
Aidan Napolitano led off and reached on a dropped infield pop up. Courtesy runner Aaron Wu moved to third when Hunter Force (2-for-4) doubled just inside the right field line with one out. Brayden Peoples then drove in Wu on a ground out.
Allentown Legion scored twice in the second inning. Nick Izzo and Tyler Huzzy began the inning with walks, and after a strikeout, a walk to Dane Jorgenson loaded the bases. With Julian Caruso at the plate, a pair of wild pitches scored Izzo and Huzzy.
After Heissler struck out the side in the bottom of the inning, Allentown Legion added two more runs with two out in the third. Huzzy drove in the first with an RBI single that deflected off the pitcher’s glove to shortstop, and the other came on a hit to right field by Brandon Sweeney.
Heissler pitched a 1-2-3 third, capped by two strikeouts, before Allentown Legion pulled away in the fourth.
With one out, walks to Caruso, Jack Osmond and Jack Sweeney loaded the bases. Inzilla’s grand slam to left field followed.
Brayden Peoples of Hustle Baseball Academy follows through on grounder that scored a run.
Heissler reached his pitch limit in the fourth inning. His streak of eight consecutive outs ended when Hustle’s leadoff man reached on an error. The next batter hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Hustle Baseball Academy still threatened, as Peoples singled to center, Alex Vega reached on an error and Logan Force singled to right field to fill the bases. Heissler ended his night by getting a ground out to shortstop to maintain the eight-run lead.
The right-hander’s final line included three hits allowed, with five strikeouts and no walks.
“The runs gave me safety out there, starting with Sweeney’s home run in the first inning,” Heissler said. “Dom’s grand slam in the third gave me a really big cushion. My change was working in the second, third and fourth, and I also went with a knuckle curve. I had 50 pitches, and tried to get the most out of it.”
Hustle Baseball Academy wasn’t done, starting when it needed to score in the bottom of the fifth to avoid an early end to the game because of the mercy rule. It got two runs that inning to close to 9-3. After loading the bases with one out, Andrew Hladik walked, and Hunter Force hit a full-count single to score the other run.
With the 1:50 game clock having expired, the bottom of the sixth inning represented Hustle Baseball Academy’s final chance to rally.
The inning started with walks to Logan Force and Peter Peluso. After a strikeout, Orlando Shin hit an RBI single to left field. The next batter struck out, before Napolitano walked to load the bases. Hladik then walked to force home a run. With the tying run at the plate, a strikeout by Allentown reliever Brandon Sweeney ended the game.
Allentown Legion’s win streak and championship hopes ended two hours later, when it lost to Whitehouse Post 284, 8-0, in the Fall League championship game.
Whitehouse ended the Fall League with an 18-0 record. Allentown Legion hadn’t lost since an 8-1 defeat to Whitehouse on opening night back on Sept. 11.