By Rich Bevensee
Of course it took hours and hours of practice, but 10-year-old Anthony Paladino seems to be one of those young ballplayers who just gets it when it comes to hitting.
In fact, watching Paladino swing so smoothly from the left side and slap the ball into the opposite field would make high school upperclassmen jealous. And if he keeps this up, he’ll surely have recruiters knocking down his door one day.
“He’s got that pure, balanced lefty swing, almost like a Rod Carew or Tony Gwynn swing,” said Paladino’s coach, Jersey Shore Elite skipper Sean Hennessy. “He’s just got it down pat.”
Paladino’s effortless and timely production at the plate on a sweltering Saturday afternoon was a major reason why Jersey Shore Elite was able to quickly rebound from its first loss of the summer and claim a four-inning, 15-5 mercy rule victory over the Roberto Clemente Pirates of Newark, N.J., in the 10U Summer Finale at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Jersey Shore Elite is coming off a terrific performance last weekend when it won the 10U Summer Bash championship (see photo above).
Prior to its game against the Pirates, Jersey Shore sent the tying run to the plate before bowing to the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades, 13-11.
“Since the beginning of the summer, that was our first loss in four months,” Hennessy said. “So we’ve been having a good summer. You know what? In baseball you have to be humbled a little bit and take the losses with the wins.”
Paladino went 2-for-2 with a pair of opposite-field doubles, a walk, three RBI and three runs scored to pace Jersey Shore against the Pirates. Zion Sanzone went 3-for-3 with a two-run triple and three runs scored. Aidan Tantum hit an inside-the-park home run, singled and scored three times. Ray Serami went 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBI, Cam Desavo had two hits, and Jayden “Bear” Alemany was 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles, a walk and three runs scored.
The Elite scored five runs in the first, third and fourth innings on a combined 20 hits to overwhelm the Pirates.
“We start hitting and I get happy because everyone else is happy,” Paladino said. “It just starts a rally and the fire spreads.”
“It makes it fun when we score because we start believing we can win,” Sanzone said. “We don’t take pitches. We’re ready to hit.”
As the visiting team, Jersey Shore wasted no time in placing a crooked number on the scoreboard, notching five runs in the top of the first inning. Michael Arango slapped a two-run single, Paladino laced a two-run double into the left-field corner, and Ray Serami added an RBI single.
Not one batter in the first inning waited for ball four, and Elite never trailed after that initial five-run rally.
“I’m trying to teach them to swing early in the count, especially if there’s a pitcher who’s around the plate,” Hennessy said. “Trying to get them to hit in more plus counts, instead of seeing two balls go by and then you’re at the kid’s mercy and you have to hit his two-strike curveball or something like that. I tell them that you’re gonna see the better pitches early in the count so I’m trying to get them in that mindset.”
The Pirates countered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first when Legacy Crespo ripped a two-run double to left.
Crespo, the Pirates shortstop, haunted the Elite again in the top of the second when he leaped to snare a Patrick Hennessy line drive and then threw to second to double up Jake Oizerowitz. That was the only inning the Elite failed to score.
In the top of the third, Sanzone cranked a two-run triple to right center, and Paladino notched his second opposite-field double of the game to bring home another run. Serami rapped his second straight RBI single, and later scored on a throwing error for a 10-2 Jersey Shore lead.
“Since I was 9 my dad (Anthony) would take me to Skyview Park (in Toms River) to work on my swing,” Paladino said. “And Jake Daubert, my hitting coach, has helped me a lot too, especially with footwork. It’s really fun (to hit to left field). I like hitting where nobody is.”
Daubert isn’t a bad source for Paladino. The 1996 Toms River East grad and 2000 NCAA All-American at Rutgers, played professionally for nine seasons.
The Pirates creeped to within 10-5 in the bottom of the third when Tyler Avigdorovich had an RBI sacrifice fly, Crespo added an RBI groundout and Eman Lai scored on a wild pitch.
Jersey Shore began its third and final five-run rally in the fourth inning when Tantum’s fly to right was lost in the sun and he raced all the way around for a two-run homer. Arango notched an RBI sac fly, Sanzone scored from third on a double steal, and Paladino scored on an infield throwing error.
Jersey Shore Elite will wrap up pool play with another showdown with the Pirates on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. A victory would push the Elite into the 10U final against the Renegades at 6:30 p.m.
Earlier on Saturday in the 10U pool play opener, the Pirates lost to the Renegades 11-3.