NJ Nationals pitcher Mack Lipari accepts congratulations after striking out the side in the second.
By Sean Reilly
Mack Lipari had a few goals in mind for his first start of the summer season on Friday night, when his NJ Nationals 16U team faced Locked In Expos Black at Diamond Nation.
“I wanted to attack the zone, work in the slider and throw strikes,” he said.
He also wanted to continue the success he had during the recently-concluded high school season, when the 5-11, 185-pound sophomore left-hander was one of the staff aces for the Seton Hall Prep JV team.
Everything worked as hoped in the season opener. He allowed one hit over 4 2/3 innings when the NJ Nationals defeated the Expos, 12-1, in a six-inning contest at Super 16 Invitational in Flemington.
Lipari struck out nine and walked three for the victory. Dave Megalla, a Seton Hall Prep teammate, allowed one hit while throwing the remaining 1 1/3 innings.
“I’m looking to get noticed this summer to try and play college ball,” Lipari said. The Nationals made his job easier on Friday by scoring four times in the top of the first.
The first three batters – Vinnie Stigliano, Michael Bravette and Kaden Frei – drew a walk. Nick Russo then hit a full-count sacrifice fly to left field to score Stigliano.
Gavin Fochtman was up next, and a wild pitch scored Bravette before he reached on a hit-by-pitch. C.J. Georgiou then hit a double past third base and down the left field line to score two for the 4-0 lead.
The Nationals left the bases loaded in the second inning and started the third with a hit by pitch and walk. One of the rarest of all plays at ‘The Nation,’ or anywhere else, then occurred when a line drive was caught by Expos shortstop Matt Rosoff, who stepped on second to eliminate the lead runner, and then fired the ball to first baseman Ben Andrade in time to beat the trail runner for a triple play.
The way Lipari was throwing, it didn’t really matter. After striking out two batters in a 1-2-3 first inning and fanning the side in the second inning, he issued a leadoff walk in the third before retiring the next three, two of them by strikeout.
The Nationals then added three more runs in the third. Stigliano, who finished 3-for-3 with a walk, hit a two-run single to left field before scoring on a wild pitch.
The Expos got their only run in the bottom of the fourth, after Caden Breault led off with a double to the left field corner and then scored on a one-out fielding error.
The Nationals extended the lead to 8-1 in the third. Russo (2-for-3) led off with a single, stole second and then scored after stealing third and advancing when the throw went into left field.
Frei hit a two-run single to right field with nobody out in the sixth, and the final runs scored when Chris DePrenda (1-for-1, three walks) hit a grounds rule double to right-center field with the bases loaded and two out.
The Nationals followed up the victory with an 11-3 win over Wladyka Baseball American later on Friday. They’ll close out play with a Saturday matchup against TSA South Marucci (0-2).
The Expos ended Friday with a 1-1 record after beating TSA South Marucci, 14-7, in their nightcap. They were set to play Wladyka American (1-1) on Saturday.
There are no pools or playoffs in this tournament, which attracted a number of college coaches who were evaluating the talent on opening night. Instead, the top five finishers from the more than 60 competing will qualify for the Super 16 Top 25 at Diamond Nation in August.