Strong pitching, excellent defense and a ferocious hitting attack served Hustle Baseball Academy 12U well on its way to the School’s Out tournament championship last weekend at Diamond Nation.
Lefthander Will Sassman tossed a five-inning four-hitter, striking out six and walking three as Hustle Baseball 12U defeated Grit 12U Orange, 11-2, in the championship game.
Tommy Diomedi put an exclamation point on the championship game when he launched a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the fifth to secure the mercy rule victory.
Sassman, who contributed at the plate as well throughout the tournament, was named the 12U School’s Out Most Valuable Player. The clean-up hitter hit a walk-off home run in his team’s third game of pool play to give Hustle a 10-2 mercy rule victory over Complete Performance Baseball Academy. On the very next pitch Sassman saw, leading off the second inning of the final, he ripped another home run. That blast gave Hustle Baseball a 1-0 lead and triggered a seven-run inning.
“He homered on back-to-back swings,” said Hustle Baseball coach Lou Fernandez, Sr. “The second won was a bomb. It went over the scoreboard in right field.”
Sassman threw a fairly tidy 73 pitches in the championship game and helped himself immensely by picking off four base runners.
“Will’s a lefty and he’s got a nasty move,” said Fernandez.
It wasn’t all Sassman as Hustle Baseball 12U had contributions throughout its lineup. Joaquin Phillips followed Sassman’s home run in the second with a double and he scored on Daniel Lipsky’s RBI single. Jace Lobe reached on a hit-by-pitch and Evan Gonzalez and Nick Testa followed with singles. Lipsky scored the third run of the inning on Testa’s single.
That brought Tyler-Shea Corales to the plate and Hustle’s leadoff hitter wasted no time clearing the bases when he unloaded a grand slam to break the game open and give his team a 7-0 lead.
“That was big for us,” said Fernandez. “This is one of our best teams at this age level in years.”
Hustle Baseball 12U also showed its grit and deep well of talent in its 5-0 run to the championship of the USABL tournament in Colts Neck in May. The team is 25-10-1 on the season.
“We played really good defense this weekend, too,” said Fernandez.
Testa really shined defensively, both at second base and in center fielder. “He was diving all over the field this weekend,” said Fernandez. “His defense was amazing.”
A critical ingredient to that defense was catcher Alex Vargas, who handled the pitching staff with efficiency, including calling all of the pitches. “Alex has been with us since he was 8 years old,” said Fernandez. “He’s been amazing. We let our catchers go and call the game. That’s how they learn.”
Phillips, who singled home Sassman ahead of Diomedi’s home run in the fifth, went 2-for-2 with a double, drew a walk and scored three runs. Diomedi also drove Phillips home with a double in the third.
Connor McNally, Hustle’s No. 3 hitter, certainly did what he intended to do in hitting rockets. But McNally hit into bad luck, lining out twice, to left field in the first inning and to third base in the fifth. Luke Smith, who has been valuable to the club as an outfielder and left handed pitcher this season, was missed as he arrived late from an all-star event.
“We’ve played well,” said Fernandez. “We run into trouble with a couple of the powerhouses but that’s the kind of competition we want and why we come to Diamond Nation. Strong competition is better for us and we get a lot out of it.”
Hustle Baseball Academy 12U’s next stop is Cal Ripkin this weekend.