Jacob Kida of NJ Axemen singles against the Diamond Jacks Super 11U.
By Joe Hofmann
Ian Peros has watched Nate McGann hit a lot of home runs.
None were like this one.
The Diamond Jacks Super 11U catcher smoked a pitch over the right center field wall in the fourth inning to help his team capture a 12-4 Mercy Rule victory over the N.J. Axemen in the Diamond Nation 11U World Series in five innings.
So, what was any different about this blast? Well, all the rest of them came off power pitching.
This one didn’t.
The power was entirely generated by McGann, who stayed back, waited for the ball, swung, and crushed it. The righty hitting catcher sent it over the fence in right center. He didn’t pull the ball, like most home runs. And he didn’t rely on the pitcher’s velocity to generate the power.
It was all McGann.
“He’s hit a lot of homers,” Peros said, “but they were all off faster pitching. That was impressive.”
“It felt good,” McGann said. “The pitch didn’t have pop to it. I thought it was gonna be off the wall.”
But it kept going and going until it sailed over the fence. McGann circled the bases, crossed home plate, picked up his bat, and was greeted by a mob of teammates.
“He had a good approach,” winning coach Matt Markiewicz added. “It is a testament to how hard he has worked. I am so happy with his effort.”
Peros, meanwhile, settled down after a rough beginning and pitched five innings, allowing five hits, fanning seven and walking four. He overcame a rough first inning, when he allowed two runs on two hits with two walks.
But over his last four innings, he allowed just three hits (two infield hits) with two walks and six Ks.
So, what did he figure out after the so-so first inning?
“The biggest thing was that he threw strikes,” Markiewicz said. “He has a live arm, electric. He was more in the zone. He competed in the zone. When he was in the zone, he was very effective.
“In the first two innings, he threw 40 pitches. In the last three, he threw 30 pitches. Big difference.”
“I think I just threw a lot of balls,” Peros said. “My mechanics were all messed up. Later on, I was just having a catch.”
NJ Axemen pitcher Lucas Mustoc warms up in pen for game against the DJacks Super 11U.
“Ian pitched phenomenal,” McGann said. “We were on the same page the whole game. I’d call for a fastball and he threw it. Same thing with the curve. Whatever he threw, they couldn’t hit it.”
The Diamond Jacks hitting put everything together in the bottom of the first inning with six runs on four hits to take the lead for good.
Peros (two doubles) doubled to left to start the inning and McGann stroked an RBI double to right. Tim Donahue walked and Logan Koziupa was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Alan Pena walked to force in a run, chasing the starting pitcher.
Ryan Nigro greeted the reliever with an infield hit before Nino Sivio’s sacrifice fly to center. Joe LoPresti was hit by a pitch and Jack Suarez reached on an infield hit but the bases were left stranded.
In the third, Pena and Nigro walked and advanced on a balk before SIvio’s two-run single.
In the fifth, Nigro and Sivio walked and pulled off a double steal before LoPresti delivered a two-run single, ending the game.
The Axemen had the bats going in the top of the first when Jacob Kida singled and scored on Robby Rutigliano’s base hit. Rutigliano scored on James McLaughlin’s grounder.
In the third, Rutigliano singled and later scored on a balk and Luke Kinsella walked and later scored.
But Peros kept their hitting under control after the rocky first inning, which helped lead to the victory.
Markiewicz’s team has picked it up lately. They reached the finals of the Ripken tournament in Maryland last week and finished 5-1 after reaching the championship game.