Winning pitcher Sean Spitaleri also drove in two runs for Northeast Supreme.
By Rich Bevensee
After working hard all spring to earn his coach’s trust and get his first shot as a starting pitcher, things were going downhill quickly for Sean Spitaleri.
The Northeast Supreme 14U Black right-hander surrendered two hits and two walks in the first inning and worked three-ball counts to four of seven batters. Spitaleri was the victim of a two-run error, but he wasn’t happy about his sequencing or his control, or the fact that he allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach base.
“After that first inning I was upset, sitting in the corner drinking,” Spitaleri said. “But there’s a saying I refer to: It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. I knew that even though they got three runs in the first inning, I knew we would come back and hit. So I knew I’d be all right.”
Spitaleri gathered himself in the dugout and produced an outing which
reinforced his coach’s trust, and then some. He gave up just two hits and two walks in the next five shutout innings combined and led Northeast Supreme to a 9-3 pool play victory over Hayner Academy Barnstormers Red 14U in the Independence Weekend Firecracker on Monday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“He’s been a closer for us exclusively and he’s been asking to start games, so I gave him the opportunity and he went out and executed after a rough first inning,” said Supreme coach Rob Lisciandrello. “He’s gained my trust because of his consistent performance after performance after performance, and because of the confidence he has in himself, that even after a rough inning he’s going to come out and do better in the next one.”
Spitaleri, a rising freshman at Glen Rock High School, permitted just two baserunners to get into scoring position after that rocky first inning. His starting debut required 103 pitches.
“I think I gained Coach’s trust in my relief appearances. I was doing pretty well and starting to gain stamina,” Spitaleri said. “Today for example, it allowed me to pitch six innings, and really work hard. Mixing pitches, hitting spots, and really coming in tough situations.”
“He attacked the zone, got ahead of hitters and that allowed him to work his fastball off of his curveball,” Lisciandrello said.
The victory was Supreme’s fifth straight this week at Diamond Nation. Lisciadrello’s squad defeated Diamond Baseball Academy (12-5), OOTP Cyclones Futures (15-2), LVBA (3-2) and Stars Baseball Academy (6-5) leading into the clash with the Barnstormers.
Supreme’s supreme week, however, was derailed in the first round of the playoffs by Long Island Body Armor Titans 14U (9-1). The Titans went on to win the 14U championship.
Once Spitaleri escaped that uncharacteristic first inning, he was one of the first to contribute to the offensive attack. Chris Kim scored when a Barnstormer outfielder dropped a Jaden Vasquez fly ball. Spitaleri then followed with a two-run single to left field. Jake Fiorenza dropped a perfect bunt which scored pinch-runner Jaylen Rodriguez, and Peter Rouggeris added an RBI sacrifice fly for a 5-3 lead.
“Our motto has been to open the door a crack and then kick it down,” Lisciandrello said. “Take advantage of every opportunity we can, and these boys have done a really great job of doing that, especially in the past couple weeks.”
Supreme added single runs in the third and fourth innings to extend its lead to 7-3. Vasquez slapped an RBI single to right in the third, and in the fourth a Fiorenza groundout drove in Josh Feinberg, who tripled.
Northeast tacked on a couple more runs in the sixth when Rouggeris sliced an RBI single to left and Kim added an RBI groundout.
Ryan Guzman pitched the seventh in relief of Spitaleri and surrendered a walk and a hit before closing the door on the Barnstormers.
Spitaleri’s battery mate, Supreme catcher Shane Jelenevsky, was the only Supreme player with two hits. He said the team always had confidence in Spitaleri to come through in his debut as a starter, which is why they were quick to pick him up after the first inning.
“You have to comfort him, fist bump him and let him know we have his back, and you could see him take a sigh of relief,” said Jelenevsky, a rising freshman at Iona Prep. “Our rallies are all about feedback. Our one-hitter (Rouggeris), even when he gets out, he tells everyone the pitch sequence so we know what to expect when we get up. We also have confidence when we’re down by a few runs. We’ve been here before, we’ve done that. We know we can come back.”
Jake Wolf collected two of the Barnstormers’ four hits, and Brady Mills launched a triple. The Barnstormers scored three in the top of the first inning, a rally which began when Raul Rodriguez’s grounder skipped through the infield via an error and reached the center field fence to score two. Mills then socked a triple to right center and later scored on a wild pitch.
Barnstormers starter Keegan Croucher went 2⅔ innings and allowed six runs (five earned) on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Jack Rigabar pitched 3.1 innings in relief and yielded three runs on five hits and a hit batsman with one strikeout.
The Barnstormers went 3-1-1 at the Nation. They tied Delmarva Aces 14U Coastal (5-5), before winning three straight, beating Vendetta Baseball NY (9-1), 14U LIB Select (8-4) and Northeast Sticks Baseball Merritt (6-4).