Russo pitches HV Select past Red Storm at 15U Summer Finale

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 26, 2023

Hudson Valley Select runner Gavin Rounds advances to third on wild pitch. 

By Sean Reilly 

If a team hopes to advance beyond pool play at a Diamond Nation tournament, it’s incredibly important to win the first game. 

Winning, and doing so by shutout, is even better. 

That’s exactly what Hudson Valley Select-Delanoy Sr. accomplished on Friday night, by defeating Red Storm, 3-0, in its opening game at the 15U Summer Finale, Powered By Victus, in Flemington. 

Starting pitcher Darren Russo allowed three hits over 5⅔ innings and catcher Marco Papagni reached base three times and his courtesy runners accounted for all three runs in the victory. 

Russo, a right-hander from Valley Central High School (N.Y.), struck out eight and walked five. Three of those walks came as he began to tire in the fifth inning. 

“My two-seam fastball was working inside and my curve ball was getting batters looking,” he said.

Russo also navigated through a few taxing situations with poise, as the Newburgh, N.Y., based Red Storm left a runner on third base in the first inning, runners on first and second in the third and again in the fifth inning. 

“I really just used my off-speed in those situations,” he said. “I got some ground balls and a lot of strikeouts.”

Hudson Valley Select had some trouble of its own making contact against Red Storm starter Louie Pagan, who allowed one earned run on one hit through four innings, with eight strikeouts and eight walks. 

Hudson Valley Select loaded the bases on three walks with one out in the bottom of the first, but the next two batters struck out. 

Papagni led off the second inning by striking out, but the strike three pitch wasn’t handled by the catcher. His throw to first base sailed beyond the first baseman and down the right field line, allowing Papagni to go all the way to third base.

Jayden Mann courtesy ran for Papagni. The next two batters, Brayden Soma and Jimmy McNamara, drew walks that loaded the bases for Brian Murtaugh, who was hit by a pitch to force home the run. Pagan worked out of further trouble for the Red Storm by getting two strikeouts before a fly out to right field.

After all three Hudson Valley Select batters struck out in the third, it had better luck in fourth, and Papagni was once again the instigator.

Hudson Valley Select first baseman A.C. McKay catches pop up. 

This time, he led off with a full count single to center, and was replaced on the bases by Gavin Rounds. A groundout moved Rounds to second, and he took third on a wild pitch before McNamara and Murtaugh drew walks that loaded the bases. Leadoff man A.C. McKay followed with a walk which brought in Rounds for a 2-0 lead.

Papagni led off again in the sixth inning, and once again he reached base, this time on an infield single. Mann was his runner, and stole two bases before scoring on an error just before the 1:50 time clock expired. 

And with it, Hudson Valley Select-Delanoy Sr. had a shutout victory, which is of added importance since runs allowed is a primary tiebreaker in determining pool standings and playoff placement. 

“No runs let up,” Russo said. “That was important.”

The team had pool play games against the Howell Hurricanes at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday and Top Lumber Futures at 6:30 p.m. Howell defeated Top Lumber, 6-2, on Friday.

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