By Rich Bevensee
When Andrew Sagrestano was asked to start the 17/18U championship game of the Halloween Mash tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington, it was the first time he set foot on a pitcher’s mound in nearly two months.
Sagrestano pitched brilliantly in spite of his absence – absolutely no signs of rust at all – and yet, that wasn’t nearly the most astounding aspect of his performance.
The right-hander with the Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy Prospects hadn’t pitched in two months because a deltoid muscle strain in his right shoulder forced him to the bench in the first inning of the first game of the fall season.
“My arm gave out and I couldn’t throw a ball after that,” Sagrestano said. “It was pretty bad. I wasn’t able to throw a ball for two weeks.”
Clearly, Sagrestano made a full recovery, because the Prospects rode his right arm to their first Diamond Nation tournament title of the fall season.
The 6-foot, 200-pound junior from Wilson Area High in Pa. pitched a complete game two-hitter with no walks and nine strikeouts, and the Prospects rolled to a 7-1 victory over the Diamond Studs on Sunday at ‘The Nation.’
“In the last couple weeks when I was light throwing, it still didn’t feel 100 percent,” Sagrestano said. “Today for some reason it felt good.”
“He just competes hard, that’s what he does every time,” Dando said. “He works fast, he’s a good guy to play defense behind, he throws a lot of strikes and he really competes.”
Sagrestano is nothing if not confident in his ability, because he wasn’t fazed by how well he pitched in light of his lengthy tenure on the injured list.
“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “I expect that any time Coach puts me in the game he wants the job done, and that’s what I have to do.”
Sagrestano needed 91 pitches to glide through seven innings. After surrendering a run in the first inning on a pair of doubles by Wyatt DeMeo and J.P. DiManno, Sagrestano retired 19 of the last 20 batters.
“I used the fastball the entire game,” Sagrestano said. “Not one offspeed (pitch) because they couldn’t touch the fastball. They didn’t put any hard hit balls on it after the first inning.”
Offensively, Sagrestano was supported by the big bat of Cole Cook, a junior from Lehigh Christian Academy who parked a no-doubt-about-it, three-run home run over the left field fence to give the Prospects a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
It was his third homer for the Prospects, his seventh of 2022 including high school ball.
“A single is like, all right, I did what I had to do,” Cook said. “On that one, I did way more than I had to do. When you hit a home run it has to be right on the barrel and you don’t feel it at all. That’s what happened tonight.”
The Prospects tacked on four more runs in the fifth inning, each run coming on bases-loaded walks thanks to Zach McEllroy, Ron Werkheiser, Antonio Albanese and Jordan Tocci. Sagrestano began that rally with a one-out single up the middle.
McEllroy, from Emmaus High and the Prospects’ lone player with multiple hits, finished 2-for-3 with a triple, a walk and two runs scored. Easton Albert, an East Stroudsburg commit from Boyertown High, singled, reached on an error twice and scored twice.
Diamond Studs starting pitcher Kevin Pepe lasted 4⅔ innings and allowed seven runs (five earned) on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He pitched three scoreless innings to start the game until Cook’s blast in the fourth, and he actually wiggled out of a bases loaded jam after the homer, closing the inning with a strikeout.
DiManno pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings in relief of Pepe and gave up two hits and four walks with three strikeouts.