Kaplan, DiMeo provide the serum for Biopitch 15U

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 26, 2023

Biopitch’s Davis Harr slides safely into third while RCBC’s John Kobel awaits the throw.

By Rich Bevensee

On a night when Chase Kaplan was blowing away batters with an overpowering mix of his fastball and curveball, offensive support was a little hard to come by. 

But that wasn’t bothering Kaplan, because he was dealing with his own demons. The footing on the artificial turf mound became slippery as the evening wore on, and it caused him to temporarily lose control of his pitches and surrender two runs.

While Kaplan was doctoring his delivery, Biopitch Baseball 15U teammate Joey DiMeo was relishing the chance for a clutch at bat.

With two out and a runner on first in the bottom of the fifth inning of a tie game, DiMeo delivered an opposite field base hit which allowed Davis Harr to score the go-ahead run and trigger a four-run rally in Biopitch’s eventual 6-2 victory over the Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 15U Americans in Summer Finale pool play on Friday at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“I like protecting the zone and getting opportunities to score,”  said DiMeo, a rising freshman at Toms River East. “I was locked in because I had two walks earlier and I wanted to hit. I enjoy that moment a lot because I like being under pressure.”

Thanks to a 4-1 victory over Red Storm earlier on Friday, Biopitch swept its doubleheader and is in excellent standing for a playoff spot. In an all-Jersey Shore matchup, Biopitch faces the Howell Hurricanes on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. Howell won its first game, 6-2, over Top Lumber Futures of Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Kaplan, a 5-11, 160-pound lefty and rising sophomore at Manasquan, was outstanding on the mound, poor footing or not. He struck out 14, one shy of his summer best, while allowing two runs on two hits and six walks and a hit batsman in a six-inning, complete-game effort. 

“Chase set the tone by putting the fastball in the strike zone consistently,” Biopitch coach Greg Short said. “And he mixed the fastball and curveball pretty well and let his defense do the job. As the game progressed he found his breaking ball a little more and threw it in 3-2 counts for strikeouts. That’s big, especially at this level, because everybody hits the fastball.”

Joey DiMeo of Biopitch breaks for second base in his team’s 6-2 win over RCBC.

Kaplan struck out five of the first six batters he faced before walking three straight to open the third inning. He then surrendered an RBI single to Nicholas Hans and a bases-loaded walk to Nicholas DeAngelis. 

After a brief chat with coach Short and catcher Jason Verderosa, Kaplan shortened his delivery stride, a move which allowed him to strike out the next three batters and escape the inning with a 2-2 tie. 

“A little slippery out there,” Kaplan said. “I lost the zone. My plant foot was throwing me off and I was throwing to a new catcher. But we got it figured out. I was just trying to throw strikes and trust my defense behind me, and that’s really it.”

By the time DiMeo stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the fifth, Biopitch was having about as much luck as RCBC was in the run production department. That’s because DeAngelis pitched three innings of scoreless relief and stranded three runners to that point. 

Hitless in his first two at bats, Davis Harr greeted DeAngelis with a two-out single up the middle to set up DiMeo’s at bat. DiMeo followed with a soft liner into the right center gap which allowed Harr to race to third. The opportunistic Harr saw the errant throw back to the infield and scampered home with the go-ahead run.

“Joey’s an advanced ballplayer,” Short said. “Joey’s a tough out, and when he’s hot it’s hard to get him out.”

DiMeo, who ended up on third on the play, soon scored on a wild pitch for a 4-2 lead. Austin Harr and Danny Nafzinger both walked and later scored on an infield error following a Verderosa ground ball. 

DiMeo is used to the big stage. He hit a grand slam in a 2021 Little League World Series game as a member of the Toms River team that won state and regional championships to reach Williamsport. DiMeo recently returned from Cary, North Carolina, where he played in the National Team Identification Series Champions Cup. His Northeast Stars team went 5-0 in pool play and won three more games to claim the 14U championship at the National Training Complex in Cary. 

For RCBC Ghost, only Hans and DeAngelis managed to finagle base hits facing Kaplan.

RCBC Ghost has a doubleheader slated for Saturday evening, facing the Red Storm at 4:30 p.m. and Top Lumber Futures at 8:30 p.m.

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