Michael Piccininni pitched shutdown relief for the Dirtbags 17U in the Super 17 Invitational.
By Luis Torres
Michael Piccininni has been in these types of situations before — just not for Dirtbags 17U Mann-Up.
A regular starter in the field for Dirtbags coach Brandon Mann, Piccininni has come on in relief at times for Clarkstown South High School in New York. And on Thursday afternoon, Mann called on Piccininni to come out of the bullpen to pick up the three biggest outs of the game.
Piccininni tossed two shutout innings in relief, including the first three outs when his team was clinging to a one-run lead, as Dirtbags 17U Mann-Up defeated Philly Bandits 17U 4-1 in five innings at Diamond Nation in Flemington in the second week of Super 17 Invitational Wood Bat play.
Piccininni entered the game in the bottom of the fourth behind in the count, 3-0, with no outs, the tying runner on second, and just one batter after Philly Bandits 17U had cut the deficit to 2-1. The uncommitted Class of 2023 righty was unfazed, though.
He escaped the jam by getting a fielder’s choice, a strikeout and a popout to second base to end the threat without allowing a run.
“There was a bit of nerves, but after the first couple of outs, I started to feel fine,” Piccininni said. “During (high) school ball, I relieved a bit. It wasn’t anything new. It was huge for the momentum. You could start hearing (Philly Bandits) and our bench start to get quiet. It was huge getting the first couple of outs.”
The way the schedule fell for Dirtbags 17U meant Piccininni was able to pitch on Thursday. Mann said it’s been a busy last 10 days for his team, with the two games his team played being their sixth and seventh during the period. Mann knew he had the option to throw Piccininni and he showed confidence in him to bring him into a high-leverage situation.
“That’s the game,” Mann said. “You’re the away team, and you’re up a run with the tying run on base, and if you fall behind or they tie the game, they have the advantage at that point being the home team. Not letting them get to that tie was huge, and Michael did a phenomenal job of getting in there and settling in there and getting big outs.”
He got some breathing room after his team scored two runs in the top of the fifth, courtesy of a two-run triple to the right-center field gap by Boston College commit Josh Lopez. Lopez, who went 1-for-2 with two runs scored, laced a 3-2 pitch with two outs and raced to third base.
“That was big. I had a bit of insurance then and I could work with it,” Piccininni said.
Class of 2023 outfielder Jake Sekinski had an RBI single in the second inning to open the scoring for Dirtbags 17U, while Philly Bandits 17U’s lone run came on an RBI single from Class of 2023 Reese Acord off of starter Thomas Maher.
Mann said he was happy his team bounced back from a tough week with two wins on Thursday to finish the week on a high note.
“It’s a big momentum changer to get back on track,” Mann said. “We played 10 games in seven days and we had young pitching on Tuesday and Wednesday and we had a heartbreaking loss on Monday. To get back on track and get to some games where they hopefully get to a showcase and get in front of the right people.”