Mavericks Baseball 14U hunts fastballs in Fall Harvest doubleheader sweep

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 21, 2023

Nick Benedetto tripled, singled and drove in two runs for the Mavericks.

By Rich Bevensee

Mavericks Baseball 14U coach Mike Sabatello had one message for his players as they marched into Diamond Nation for their early morning doubleheader on Saturday.

“We didn’t wake up and come out here for an 8 a.m. game and a 10 a.m. game looking for walks,” Sabatello reminded his boys. “We want to get guys on base by swinging and hunting fastballs.”

If the Mavericks were still groggy before first pitch, it didn’t show on the field. They edged past Dupage Training Academy 5-4 in their opener, then utilized the mercy rule to earn a 12-4 victory over Iron Nine South to complete the doubleheader sweep in the 14U Fall Harvest at The Nation in Flemington. 

The Mavericks, now in great position to qualify for the three-team playoffs, conclude pool play against 3Up3 Down on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

The Mavericks’ Nick Benedetto enjoyed a strong all-around game against Iron Nine, logging seven strikeouts in five innings pitched and going 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple, a walk and two RBI.

“Nicky threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and that’s usually what we get from him,” Sabatello said. “He fills up the zone. His ball-to-strike ratio is always pretty good. We usually wait a little bit on the breaking ball until a few innings into the game, and when we broke out the breaking ball, that worked, too.”

Luke Lipari celebrates his sixth-inning triple with Iron Nine coach Mike Sasso.

Benedetto allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk with seven whiffs. His only difficult inning came in the top of the third when Iron Nine rallied for three runs on two hits and an error. 

“I throw mainly fastballs and also changeups and curveballs,” Benedetto said. “I rely on my fastball outside and inside, and I threw the curveball 0-2, 1-2 to catch them off guard.”

Jake Sgobbo relieved Benedetto and pitched a scoreless sixth.

Offensively for the Mavericks, catcher Lucas Goldman raced around the diamond for an inside-the-park solo home run and finished 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Robert Hickey went 2-for-2 with two walks and an RBI. A.J Liberati drove in two runs, Matt Quinn had an RBI single, and Alejandro Pena’s RBI single capped a four-run sixth and ended the game.

“We go up there ready to hit, and that’s what we preach,” Sabatello said. “We’re not looking to walk. I tell the guys, ‘Hunt fastballs.’ “

In the one-run victory over Dupage Training, Liberati and Hickey combined for double digit strikeouts to lead the charge in the Mavericks’ first game. 

“A.J. and Robert were really the guys who held it together for us in the first game,” Sabatello said. 

If the Mavericks were thinking about an early mercy rule win after taking a 6-1 lead through three innings, Iron Nine showed some resiliency by waking up the bats. Tyler Cohen and Gennaro DiGena both had RBI singles and Teddy Stanziale added an RBI groundout to make it a 6-4 game. 

Iron Nine collected six hits in all. Starting pitcher Luke Lipari tripled in the sixth, J.G. Swenson had a double, and Aiden Lake and Victor Giunta each recorded a base hit. Lipari went four innings before he was relieved by Danny Priore for 1⅓ innings and by Danny Regan, who retired the last two batters.

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