Hustle Baseball’s Ty Fredo lets a pitch go off the outside corner.
Luke Maida attacked the strike zone and Hustle Baseball Academy’s 16U lineup jumped on fastballs on the way to an 8-0 victory over Sandlot Baseball Academy in Diamond Nation’s Super 16 Top 25 action on Monday in Flemington, N.J.
The victory over Sandlot Baseball gave Hustle Baseball a 2-0 start to its four-game pool play schedule. The Fairfield, N.J.-based club opened the tournament on Monday with a 7-0 victory over 9ers Baseball Club. The two shutouts placed Hustle Baseball at the top of the 16U standings by mid-afternoon.
Each of the teams in the 16U Top 25 play four pool-play games by the end of Wednesday’s schedule and the top six teams in the standings begin a one-day playoff on Thursday at 10 a.m.
Maida, a rising junior at Caldwell High, shut out Sandlot Baseball (0-1) on four hits over five innings, struck out four and walked one. It was an economical effort ending with his teammates’ five-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth inning that produced the eight-run mercy rule victory.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and let my fielders make plays,” said Maida, primarily an outfielder for Hustle Baseball and his high school. The lefthander deftly utilized a mix of fastball, curveball, changeup to keep Scranton, Pa.-based Sandlot Baseball at bay, limiting it to just two runners reaching scoring position. “I’d say, yes, all my pitches were working well. I threw a lot more changeups than curveballs. My changeup is my best pitch.”
Sandlot’s leadoff hitter Ian Reese went 2-for-2 against Maida with a pair of singles to center fielder. Reese led off the game with a single to center, moved to second on a fielder’s choice grounder and to third with two outs on Maida’s only wild pitch of the game. But Reese never moved from third as Maida induced an infield pop up to end the early threat. Third baseman Mossimo Infante helped short-circuit the rally when he made a terrific stop on a shot in the hole by Tim Zasada, hopped up and fired to first for the second out of the inning.
Maida’s only other worry came in the third when Jacob MacMillan drew a leadoff walk and Reese singled with two outs as MacMillan stopped at second base. But Maida got the next batter waving at a curveball to end the inning.
“Luke is a position guy coming in to throw strikes and he did a good job mixing speeds on them,” said Hustle Baseball coach Lou Fernandez, Jr. “His changeup is a good one. He got ahead of batters on that first pitch and that was important.”
Meanwhile, the Hustle Baseball bats did not complicate things. Fernandez’s lineup simply took what it was given.
Evan Ravalli and Ty Fredo drew back-to-back walks to start the bottom of the first inning and proceeded to disrupt things on the basepaths. Ravalli took third on Joe Bernardo’s fly ball to center, then Fredo stole second base. When the catcher’s throw to second got away, Ravalli scored and Fredo sped to third. Cleanup hitter Kenet Quinones then delivered Fredo with a long grounds rule double to right field. Sandlot Baseball starter Aidan Mehal got out of further trouble but Hustle Baseball had quickly taken a 2-0 lead.
Maida started things in the second with a leadoff single inside third base. James Macko drew a walk before Maida stole third with freshman No. 10 hitter Dom Aiosa at the plate with one out. Aiosa, called up to the 16U squad to fill a vacation void, lofted a sac fly to right field that scored Maida for a 3-0 lead.
“Dom did his job,” said Fernandez.
Hustle Baseball held dearly to that 3-0 advantage into the fifth when Mehal lost the plate. He walked leadoff batter Jake DePetris, but DePetris was caught stealing on an excellent throw by catcher Logan McConnell. That just delayed the rally because Mehal then walked Aiosa and Ravalli, which caused Sandlot Baseball to go to its bullpen. Fredo then drew his second walk of the game to load the bases. Bernardo got a run home on a bouncer to shortstop that Dante Ruby turned into a forceout at second for the second out. But Sandlot would not get that desired third out.
Quinones drew a walk to reload the bases before lefty-hitting Michael Kelly (2-for-3, 2 RBI) smashed a single to center field to score two more runs and boost the lead to 6-0. Infante followed with a single to right that scored Quinones from second. Quinones single slipped past the right fielder and rolled all the way to the wall as Infante raced around the bases from first base with the mercy rule-clinching run.
“We are a big proponent of hunting fastballs early in the count,” said Fernandez. “We did a good job of laying off the off-speed stuff early.”
Next up for Hustle Baseball is Knights Nation MXE Academy at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday on Field 4. Sandlot was playing Langan Baseball at press time and faces MVP Beast 2023 American at 10 a.m. on Tuesday on Field 4.
Great pitching to start the day
James Macko, Quinones and DePetris combined on a complete game one-hit shutout in Hustle Baseball’s tournament opening victory over 9ers Baseball Club. The trio struck out six and walked three in the 7-0, 103-pitch gem.