RCBC Ghost Nationals 12U secure Easter Extravaganza title

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 1, 2024

By Sean Reilly 

The RCBC Ghost 12U Nationals offered a reminder on Saturday afternoon of what a visit to Diamond Nation is all about. 

The team from Staten Island played the NY Gothams for the championship of the 12U Easter Extravaganza, and captured the title with an 11-0 victory. 

That game earned RCBC the championship trophy and the individual medals and other fanfare that accompanies it. 

But the truth was, that opportunity would never have happened without a strong pool showing that began with a clutch comeback win on Friday morning.

“This was a good weekend for us,” said Christian Falzone, who earned tournament MVP honors. “We were down three players this weekend, but still got the job done.”

RCBC, which was playing in its first tournament of the season, had to come back from multiple deficits to beat PRD Pride 12U Donuts, 7-5, in that first game, and had to outlast Donuts left-hander Andrew Clauss, who threw more than 70 mph.

“Right after that game, we were on a roll,” Falzone said. “That gave us confidence. When we won that, we knew it was the hardest challenge we were going to face all tournament.”

The second game on Friday was a 10-2 win over the Lincroft Tides, and RCBC finished off pool action on Saturday afternoon with a lopsided win over High Heat 12U.

There were still two more games to go, beginning with a semifinal matchup against the always tough FB Braves 12U Red Scout, who also made it through pool play with a 3-0 record. RCBC won that game, 7-4. 

That set up the championship tilt against the NY Gothams, who came in 4-0 with a 45-7 run differential. 

After the four games that preceded the final, RCBC was ready. 

Joseph Bonura led off the top of the first with a walk, and he moved to third on Michael Garland’s single to right field. 

The next batter struck out, but Falzone followed by hitting a smash toward the pitcher. The ball was fielded, but Bonura was safe after a throw to the plate. Brandon Swanson then hit a two-run triple to center field, and he scored when Chris McConnell grounded out to second for a quick 4-0 lead. 

“That inning put us ahead the whole game,” Falzone said. “Once we had that, we had a lot of confidence and we were grooving.”

The Gothams had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the first, but RCBC starter Stephen Grippo induced a ground out to third base before getting a called strike three on the next batter to maintain the four-run lead.

Christian Falzone of RCBC Ghost 12U Nationals was named MVP of the 12U Easter Extravaganza.

Grippo continued to pitch shutout ball until he was relieved by McConnell with the bases loaded and two out in the third. McConnell retired the first man he faced on a ground out to shortstop. 

RCBC broke the game open by scoring seven runs in the fifth. 

Daniel Toro led off and was hit by a pitch before stealing second. Peter Giaccio was safe on an error that scored Toro. 

The next two batters were retired before Evan Yaverbaum hit an RBI double to right-center on a full count. He scored when Bonura singled to center. 

Bonura took second on a throw to the plate and moved to third on a wild pitch. Garland followed with an RBI single to shortstop for an 8-0 lead. 

Grippo hit a double to center field to put runners on second and third for Falzone, and he came through with a three-run home run to center field. 

Garland, Grippo and Swanson finished with two hits apiece for RCBC. Felix Breen, Miles Zaret and Payton Perez had the lone hits for the Gothams. 

The MVP award was the second of Falzone’s career at ‘The Nation.’ His other was earned two years ago. His weekend featured a .500 batting average, another home run, and nine total RBI. He also pitched five scoreless innings, allowing two hits with six strikeouts, against the FB Braves in the semifinals.

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