Peter Giaccio takes aim during the Prospects’ nine-run second inning.
By Rich Bevensee
It’s not unusual these days to see a young ballplayer figuring out how to throw breaking balls, but it is rare to see players like 11-year old Dylan Fardella have so much confidence in throwing them in situations where there’s no room for error.
That confidence – and a nine-run rally – is what gave 11U Prospects Gold of Staten Island the upper hand in a Summer Finale pool play game on Saturday morning at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
While Fardella struck out five in five innings and allowed just four hits, his teammates constructed a nine-run, second-inning rally which carried them to a 12-5 victory over the Prodigy Hitmen.
Fardella surrendered three runs in the bottom of the first inning before the Prospects sent 15 batters to the plate in the second and exploded for nine runs on four hits, five walks and one error.
“I love that kind of inning,” Fardella said. “It gets you so nervous when you’re on that mound and you give up three runs. Then I saw my team go out there and start hitting the ball and it gave me so much relief. It’s a great feeling.”
With the run support to bolster his confidence, Fardella stumped Hitmen batters with his breaking stuff on almost any count. After the first inning, Fardella allowed just two runs over the next four innings on two hits and four walks.
“Early he was struggling to find his release point,” Prospects coach Jason Fardella said, “but later he was throwing 3-1 curves, which at this level is pretty impressive. He got a couple big outs in the meat of their lineup when he was able to throw that pitch for a strike. That was the biggest difference from early to late.”
The younger Fardella said he has much more confidence in his breaking stuff than his fastball, which is a staple of 11U baseball.
“I’ve been practicing that a lot since the start of last year,” Fardella said. “I noticed every pitcher has a breaking ball now, so I tried to do it because I knew I can’t throw all fastballs and changeups or I’ll get hit. I started throwing that breaking ball and it’s worked out. I love where it’s at right now.”
The Prospects gave Fardella a big boost of confidence with their nine-run explosion in the second inning. Fardella actually kick-started the rally with a fielder’s choice RBI. Joseph Schuhmann scored on a wild pitch and Fardella scored the tying run by taking advantage of the throwing error when the Hitmen tried to get Schuhmann at the plate.
Peter Giaccio forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk, and Jace Anderson unloaded the biggest hit of the game with a bases-clearing double, lifting the Prospects to a 7-3 lead.
Kirk Alessi scored three runs for the Hitmen, including this one on a double steal in the fifth inning.
“I could tell that I hit it hard. I didn’t get jammed and I hit barrel,” Anderson said. “We got a lot of confidence from it (the rally). At the start we were nervous because we thought we were going to lose, but then once we scored we were the opposite. We were happy and thought we would win.”
Anthony Matute drove in another run with a fielder’s choice and baseball magnet Schuhmann was hit by a pitch (his first of two in the game) to force in another run and boost the lead to 9-3.
“We work on all the little things – our picks, our cuts, our first-and-thirds,” Jason Fardella said. “That’s the element of the game that I think isn’t taught so much – the little things. Taking advantage of those things certainly helped us. We made mistakes in the first inning, and I think we took a little more advantage of them in the second inning.”
Caleb Laughlin scored on a wild pitch in the third for a 10-3 Prospects lead.
In the bottom of the frame, Hitmen leadoff hitter Kirk Alessi doubled into the right center gap and later scored on a wild pitch. Aessi was also responsible for a highlight-reel snag in the fourth when he leaped to grab a Michael Duta line drive for the final out.
Nonetheless, the Prospects chalked two more runs in the fifth when Shane Kary hit a sacrifice fly to score Fardella, and Laughlin raced home after a throwing error on the play for a 12-4 lead.
Alessi capped the scoring in the bottom of the fifth when Alessi was on the front end of a double steal.
Alessi reached and scored on all three plate appearances for the Hitmen. In the first he sparked their three-run rally by singling to center and scoring on a pickoff error. Owen Delaman also scored on an error and Jake Jones made it 3-0 by scoring on a wild pitch.
Both teams had one more pool play game Saturday, with the Prospects facing the Flores Braves, and the Hitmen taking on RCBC 11U Ghost.
All four teams qualify for the semifinals on Sunday, at 10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. The 11U Summer Finale championship game is scheduled for 2:15 p.m.