Real Ballers live up to name, win 17/18U Home Run Classic

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 6, 2022

By Will Harrigan

If there is one takeaway from their performance at the Home Run Classic, it’s this for the Real Ballers:

There is no false advertising in their name whatsoever.

Coming down to Diamond Nation with a stockpile of Division I talent, the Ballers – based in Brooklyn but drawing from all over the Northeast – capped off a dominant weekend with a 7-5 victory over Uncommon 17U Black in the 17/18U finals on Sunday night. The Ballers outscored their opponents 44-8 in their five-game rampage to the title.

Ballers center fielder Antonio Morales, a Wake Forest commit who just finished his junior campaign at Roxbury Latin in Massachusetts, garnered MVP honors.

“It feels great to come out here and win our first tournament of summer ball. We saw a lot of good pitching this weekend and that makes us better,” Morales said. “We have some more guys still playing high school ball, so we still have even more gelling to do as a team.”

Exploding for five runs to create separation in the fifth, the Ballers parlayed three straight softly hit but perfectly placed singles to do their damage.

Eric Cha, Braydon Hubbard, and Nico Rodriguez all mustered infield singles to score runs, ballooning the Ballers advantage to 6-2 at that juncture.

St. John’s commit Chad Falcon and UConn commit Gabriel Tirado both walked to set the table for the Ballers. Morales, who had doubled to lead off the inning and ignite the rally, was driven home on a sacrifice fly to the warning track off the bat of St. John’s-bound Zaine Toneske.

Uncommon Black – a club based out of the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken – ignited a comeback rally of its own in the ensuing half inning. Markey and Finn walked and singled, respectively, setting the table for Colin Dunlap to launch a three-run bomb over the left field wall to pull Uncommon to within 6-5.

Ballers reliever Brayden Davis would recover to get the next three outs and put his team back at the dish. Tirado belted a triple to start the bottom of the sixth, and just before the game clock ran out, Brayden Davis would drive him home, forging the 7-5 final.

Team Uncommon, composed of sophomores and juniors, drew first blood in the second. Dunlap drew a leadoff walk, and consistent with the old baseball adage, he would score. First stealing second base and advancing to third on a wild pitch, Dunlap crossed home plate on a pop single by Jack FIlograna that landed in no man’s land behind the pitcher’s mound, giving Uncommon Black a 1-0 edge.

Antonio Morales of Real Ballers was named the 17/18U Home Run Classic Most Valuable Player.

The Ballers would equalize in the bottom of the third, and it started with another lead-off walk, this one drawn by Hubbard. Hubbard would promptly steal second base, and an opposite field single by Nico Rodriguez did the trick and leveled things up at 1-1 early.

With the summer season in full swing, expect a lot more noise to be made by the Real Ballers.

“The high school season is a different animal. There’s a lot more attention to it, chasing a state title, worrying about stats and all-state teams,” Morales said. “In summer ball it’s a different approach. You can go 0-for-3 and shake it right off because you play another game right after.”

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