Matt Pizza had to grind through the first hot weather tournament of the spring behind the plate for Baserats Baseball’s 10U squad but had enough left in his tank to deliver at the biggest moment of the championship game.
Pizza lined a hard single into the left-center field gap with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to score Vincent Petruzzelli with the winning run as Baserats Baseball edged the Diamond Jacks 10U, 5-4, in a wildly entertaining Memorial Day Blast 10U championship game.
Pizza was named the 10U Memorial Day Blast Most Valuable Player.
“Matt is such a good player,” said Baserats coach James Speciale. “He caught the majority of the games in the tournament. When he came up in that spot I just felt he was going to come through.”
Petruzzelli had triggered the rally with a lead off double into the left-center field gap and scored easily on Pizza’s shot. It was apropos that Petruzzelli’s double finally found a spot where the Diamond Jacks’ center fielder Jake Masterson couldn’t reach. Masterson had robbed Petruzzelli of extra-base hits in the first and third innings, chasing down long fly balls deep in the right-center and left-center field gaps, respectively.
“Vincent is our four-hitter and has been hitting well all season for us,” said Speciale. “He hit his first homer over the fence (Sunday). He’s a great worker.”
In fact, the Diamond Jacks outfield had put on quite a show in keeping their team in the game. Right fielder Tommy Denvir make a remarkable running catch near the fence on a Jake Levine shot with a runner on first base and none out in the fifth. The catch helped the Diamond Jacks keep the deficit to one run.
Tommy Riche singled home Jackson Lewis to tie the game at 4-4 with one out in the top of the sixth for the Diamond Jacks. Lewis had led off with an infield single and moved to second on a fielder’s choice grounder to first base. Riche stole second after his single and raced toward the plate when Reid Bazydlo’s grounder bled through the left side of the infield. But left fielder Lucas Schettino fired to the plate to just nip Riche for the third out of the inning.
It was a 10U championship game that was played at an unusually high level, including plenty of big plays and clutch hits.
The Baserats (5-0) struck for a run in the first inning and three runs in the second to build an early 4-0 lead. Joseph Raimonda singled with one out in the bottom of the first and came around on a couple Diamond Jacks miscues. Kevin Rugg singled home a run, Schettino drew a bases-loaded walk and Levine had a fielder’s choice grounder to score the third run of the second inning.
The Diamond Jacks answered with two runs in the third when Masterson drew a walk and later scored on a passed ball and Anthony Caruso’s sac fly to center scored Kevin Stevenson.
The game was in the hands of both teams’ bullpens early on and both units performed in outstanding fashion.
Lewis and Riche combined to limit the Baserats to one run on three hits over the final 4.1 innings while striking out four and walking one. Levine extricated the Baserats from a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third and would permit just two runs on four hits over the final four innings, striking out four and walking none.
“Jake did a great job closing,” said Speciale. “He hit his spots and kept them off stride.”
But the Diamond Jacks did peck away to draw within 4-3 in the fifth. Michael Basile led off by hitting a laser into the right-center field gap for a triple and, after Masterson’s infield single, came home on the back end of a double-steal attempt. Masterson was rung up at second base by Pizza on the play.
In the end, it was a game that saw two excellent 10U teams putting on quite a show on a warm Memorial Day afternoon. “They’re a solid team,” said Speciale of the Diamond Jacks 10U, “a great team that is well-coached. Their outfield made some incredible plays.”
The Baserats outscored their tournament opponents 48-9. The Diamond Jacks 10U held a 58-13 runs advantage on their opponents.