Sportika pitcher Alex Frank releases a pitch in Thursday’s victory over MVP Beast.
By Will Harrigan
Someone with a trained eye on the New Jersey baseball scene knows what a good team from the Shore looks like right away.
It’s a team that swings the bat early and often in the count, usually connecting with the ball when they do. It’s also a club that features plenty of pitching.
On Thursday afternoon, Manalapan-based Sportika 17U Select looked the part to a tee, as they notched a comfortable 8-1 victory over MVP Beast 2023 American in the Blue Chip Prospects showcase in sweltering 100 degree heat at Diamond Nation.
With the victory, Sportika – which has only surrendered three runs thus far – improved to 2-1 in the event, while MVP Beast fell to 2-1 with the defeat.
“One thing we are lucky to have is pitching. All summer and in the tournament so far, our pitching has been great,” said Sportika coach Mike Jasper. “Offense has been the question mark for us, but we swung the bats well today.”
Sportika did not waste a second in making Jasper’s words ring true.
Middletown South rising senior Aaron Szitanko led off the bottom of the first by roping a triple down the right field line. A batter later, Jack Gerould singled him in to promptly make it 1-0. Gerould would come around to score later in the inning, when a fielding error on a Michael Diver grounder doubled the lead.
David Olenchalk would then double in a pair of runs by slicing the ball to the opposite field with two outs, giving the winners a 4-0 edge.
That run support would be more than enough for Marlboro product Alex Frank to work with. A big 6’3 right-hander, Frank only surrendered two hits in five shutout innings, setting down four MVP Beast batters in the process.
“Alex is our Bulldog and we want him pitching as much as possible,” said Jasper. “He is a smart kid who knows one of our team strengths is defense, so he is comfortable pitching to contact, and that allows him to get ahead in counts.”
A Diver single would translate into another run in the third, as a hit batsman moved him to second. From there, another fielding mishap by MVP Beast, this time on a Jack Campbell grounder, led to another two-out run to cross the plate.
Griffin Shenman’s RBI single in the fourth ignited a three spot for Sportika. Brody Patterson would add a two-RBI double later in the frame to run the lead up to 8-1.
Nursing a comfortable lead, hard-throwing righty Lawrence Elinson of Marlboro would strike out a pair in a scoreless sixth to put the game on ice.
MVP Beast – a ballclub based in Long Island that has a Division I commit in Central Connecticut State bound Ryan O’Neill – scored its lone run in the third.
After O’Neill singled Joey DiMotta over to second, Brian Zwiegbaum singled in DiMotta to get MVP on the board.