The Long Island Titans 17U was thoroughly efficient in going 5-0 and outscoring their opponents 31-1 in the Super 17 Invitational.
Running the table in the Super 17 Invitational is no easy chore and it’s no secret that it takes a complete team effort, from pitching, defense, hitting and certainly a big helping of team chemistry.
The long-running prestigious showcase event does not include playoffs so bragging rights are reserved for those teams that can elevate themselves toward the top of the standings. And to do so, those teams must have outstanding pitching performances and be able to swing wood bats with authority.
The Long Island Titans, coached by Travis Quattrini, put forth a nearly flawless performance, not only posting a 5-0 record but registering four shutouts on the way to outsourcing their tournament opponents 31-1. As impressive as the Titans were this week, this is a team that had already put forth a stunning baseball resume this summer. It would finish the season at 26-1.
“The guys worked hard and they deserved the success that came with it,” said Quattrini. “We got going in May, practicing everyday and we were ready when game-one started on July 4.”
Diamond Nation had another close up with this 17U Titans squad in early August when it went 5-0 to capture its bracket championship in the 17/18U Blue Chip Prospects tournament. The Titans put forth another thorough all-around tournament, outscoring their opponents 38-9.
This week, the Titans’ pitching was outstanding, permitting just the one run on 16 hits over 30 innings. That stingy staff struck out 42 batters and walked a remarkably skimpy five.
Tommy Ventimiglia, a Stony Brook commit, opened the tournament for the Titans with a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory over the NY Gothams. The righthander stuck out nine and walked four in the seven-inning complete game.
The Titans got another 3-0 shutout in their second game, this time Andrew Alameda, a righthander bound for St. Thomas Aquinas, scattered six hits over 5.1 innings, struck out 10 and walked just one to stifle the PA Stars.
Andrew Monda took the mound on Wednesday and hurled a five-inning, 8-0 shutout against Victus Vandals. Monda, a righty committed to St. Joseph College in Brooklyn, permitted just one hit, struck out six and walked none in about as tidy a performance you will see.
Then big righty JT Raab closed the tournament in style for the Titans when he tossed a seven-inning two-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory over Locked In Expos Baseball 2022. The 6-5, 200-pound Raab, also committed to Stony Brook, struck out eight and walked one.
The only run surrendered by the Titans came in a 15-1 victory over PAL Elite Baseball on Thursday.
“Ventimiglia and Raab lead our rotation and everyone just follows suit from there,” said Quattrini.
Of course the Titans’ bats took no back seat to the pitching staff, complementing the staff’s effort at every turn. Ryan Ferremi, an Albany commit, went 7-for-14 (.500) and drove in six runs in the tournament. Logan Kobis, a catcher at High Point (NJ) High School, was 5-for-10 (.500) with a home run. Cole Maucere, a New Haven commit, was 6-for-12 (.500) with six RBI.
“This team has been together three years and we’ve added some kids this year and they’ve fit right in,” said Quattrini. “We’ve made tremendous improvement from last year. The team bought in and played for each other.”
Right behind the Titans in the standings was Jersey Boyz Baseball, a Union County, N.J.-based program that is, like the Titans, a long running visitor of Diamond Nation.
Jersey Boyz’ 17U squad is guided by the affable Nico Vargas and Vargas’ team put forth yet another outstanding performance, the type very familiar over the years to their fellow competitors at Diamond Nation. The Jersey Boyz outscored their opponents 41-4 in boasting a 5-0 tournament record.
Two other teams were terrific this week and vaulted themselves to join an elite group at the top of the Super 17 standings. MVP Beast National went 5-0 and outscored its opponents 32-7 and PS2 Academy also ran the table at 5-0 and boasted a gaudy run differential of 55-13.
The Jersey Boyz pitching staff clearly had a big tournament, allowing just the four runs. The two big performances were by Matt Scepkowski and Chris Ho.
Scepkowski, a 6-4, 210-pound righty from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, pitched a six-inning shutout in Jersey Boyz’ 7 -0 victory over the Long Island Titans (LoRusso). Scepkowski carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before settling for a one-hitter. He struck out six and walked three.
Chris Ho, a righthander committed to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, shutdown the Diamond Jacks Gold 17/18U, 9-1, on three hits over five innings in the tournament opener for both teams. The rising senior at Westfield High struck out eight and walked two.
“This was one of our best tournaments of the summer,” said Vargas. “It’s right up there with the Blue Chips.” The Jersey Boyz also won their bracket in the 17/18U Blue Chip, going 5-1 and outscoring their opponents 34-9. “We had great balance between pitching and hitting. Overall, I think we saw this week what these boys can do. Giving up only four runs, what can you say?”
The balance was certainly there for the Jersey Boyz and that included sterling defensive play in a tournament where the team rolled off six double plays. “Plus you get strikeouts in big spots and that picks up the offense,” said Vargas.
At the plate, the Jersey Boyz were imposing to the point where six of their batters batted at least .400 in the tournament.
Jake Bencivenga, a middle infielder from Westfield High, swung the most lethal bat all tournament, going 8-for-10 (.800). He had plenty of help from a trio of Union High School players, Matt Silvestre (6-for-10), Joey Rivera (6-for-11) and Jalen Bryant (6-for-11). Also chipping in with huge performances in the tournament were Evan Pravato (5-for-11) of Watchung Hills High and Ben Ribicoff (4-for-10) of The Winchendon School (Ma.).
As the Jersey Boyz conclude their summer, take a short break and prepare for the fall season, Vargas looks back at what was a very different summer.
“We were so grateful to be at Diamond Nation playing baseball,” Vargas said, referring to the pandemic that shut down the high school season and delayed the summer tournament season until the first week of July. “Diamond Nation did such a great job early on in taking the necessary steps to open up. And everyone was doing the right thing to stay safe throughout the summer. We wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without Diamond Nation.”
“Baseball got us back to what our real world is,” says Vargas. “We practiced in the spring with social distancing. I think all the teams felt like we were in the same boat. We thought a lot about how not having sports to play affects young people. Diamond Nation became an oasis away from the pandemic for them.”
One of the neat things teams did after games, as you can see in the photo above, was to wave and tip their caps at their opponent, since Diamond Nation’s COVID-19 precautions did not permit teams to shake hands after games.
“It was just a little sign of sportsmanship,” said Vargas. “We knew it was back to reality after games and that was a nice way of showing respect for our opponents.”