Anthony Salmonese had truly done enough, it appeared, to secure a championship victory for himself and his RCBC Marucci Nationals in the 16U Fall Harvest tournament.
But Jersey Shore Wave, at least temporarily, upset the applecart that contained RCBC’s tournament trophy when it rallied for three runs in the top of the fifth inning to draw even at 4-4. But Salmonese, who had already pitched 4.1 gritty innings and singled home a run, wasn’t done.
RCBC came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning with the time limit expired, its batting order flipped to the top and facing an opportunity to walk it off for a championship that would close its fall season in style. Dylan Swanson then worked a leadoff walk to ratchet up the intensity.
Michael Flashner, who had a double and a single and scored a run, hit a bouncer back to the mound. Jersey Shore Wave pitcher Hunter Lefkus fired to his shortstop at second base but his throw was wide of the bag. Fortunately, the second baseman was there to make the catch as Swanson slid in safely. But the second baseman then hurried a throw to first that got away, allowing Swanson to advance to third.
RCBC suddenly had runners on the corners and no outs with Swanson and the potential winning run just 90 feet from home. In stepped the No. 3 hitter, Salmonese.
“I couldn’t want anyone up in that spot more than Anthony,” said RCBC Marucci Nationals coach Ralph Monteforte. Salmonese worked the count to 2-1.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play in that spot with no outs and a runner on third base,” said Salmonese. “I really wanted to put it in the air to right field.”
Salmonese actually laced a hard liner into right field for a clean single that easily scored Swanson as his teammates stormed the field to celebrate the 5-4 victory and 16U Fall Harvest championship. “I just kept my hands back and was able to go the opposite way with it,” said Salmonese.
RCBC Marucci Nationals (4-0) had built a 4-0 lead through the top of the fourth behind some timely hitting and effective small ball. The righty Salmonese had also shut out Jersey Shore Wave (3-1-1) on no hits over their first three at bats. He would allow two earned runs, of the four he permitted, on three hits over 4.1 innings, struck out four and walked five.
RCBC came out swinging in the bottom of the first.
Swanson led off and lined out hard to center field. Flashner slashed a double inside third base and came around on Salmonese’s single to center field. Salmonese stole second and took third on Robert Cavalieri’s fielder choice grounder before scoring on a two-out infield throwing error.
The righty Lefkus put forth a gritty effort of his own, scattering eight hits and permitting just three earned runs over his 5.1 innings of work. He also struck out five while impressively walking none.
RCBC tacked on a run in the third to take a 3-0 lead when Tyler Gaetano lofted a fly ball to shallow right field near the line. Three fielders converged but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf as Gaetano hustled out a 110-foot double. Gaetano then stole third and scored on Swanson’s fielder’s choice bouncer to third base.
RCBC extended its lead to 4-0 in the fourth with a bit of thunder and a deft touch. Cavalieri, who was named the 16U Fall Harvest Most Valuable Player, ripped a leadoff double down the left field line. Peter Fopeano’s one-out infield single moved Cavalieri to third. Joseph Scarfone then executed a perfect safety squeeze bunt that hugged the third base line as Cavalieri scored.
To Jersey Shore Wave’s credit, it did not fold the tents. They scratched for their first run in the bottom of the fourth on Tyler Bell’s sac fly to deep left field. Salmonese had gotten himself in trouble after Brett Benecke reached on an infield error leading off. Evan Rodriguez then singled to center field and James Michko reached on a bad-hop infield single to load the bases with no outs.
But Salmonese extricated himself from a potential big inning when, after Bell’s sac fly, he induced a comebacker for a force out at second base and a pop-out to first to end the threat.
But when he issued back-to-back walks to Eli Colling and Davey Yorke to open the fifth, Salmonese would not survive the inning. He did get a strikeout for the first out, but Benecke singled to right field to score Colling and Yorke came all the way around from first base when the ball was misplayed in right field. Benecke chugged all the way to third base on the play. The lead had been trimmed to 4-3 and Monteforte pulled Salmonese for Swanson.
But Rodriguez greeted Swanson with a hard single inside the right field line to deliver Benecke with the tying run. Michko extended the rally when he singled off Swanson’s glove, but Swanson would retire the next two batters to get out of further trouble and keep the game tied at 4-4.
“I felt very good bringing in Dylan in that spot,” said Monteforte. “He’s the type of reliever who you just want the ball in his hands.”
Gaetano doubled to right-center with one out in the bottom of the fifth but Lefkus picked him off second to extinguish any thought of a RCBC rally. Swanson returned the favor in the top of the sixth. After walking leadoff batter Dylan Fitzsimmons, Swanson picked him off first base and a potential rally was history.
RCBC then took care of business in the bottom of the sixth to put an exclamation point on a terrific fall-ender for both teams.
“It was a good fall season for us and it’s a great feeling to end it with a championship,” said Monteforte.
Fall Harvest recaps
The SJ Sandsharks defeated Sandlot Baseball Academy, 4-1, in the 11U Fall Harvest championship game. Dylan Dellanoce of the Sandsharks was named the 11U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Sandshark (4-0) outscored their opponents 43-16. Sandlot Baseball (3-1) held a 46-14 runs advantage on its opponents.
The Powerballers defeated NY Dynasty, 6-3, in the 12U Fall Harvest championship game. Carson Steingall of the Powerballers was named the 12U Fall Harvest Most Valuable Player. The Powerballers (4-0) outscored their opponents 40-22. NY Dynasty (3-1) held a 27-20 runs advantage on its opponents.
DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 13U
The Diamond Jacks Super 13U defeated the Bucks County Generals, 9-0, in the 13U Fall Harvest championship game. Super 13U (4-0) outscored its opponents 43-3. The Generals (3-1) held a 30-17 runs advantage on their opponents.
DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 14U
The Diamond Jacks Super 14U defeated the NJ Marlins, 13-0, in the 14U Fall Harvest championship game. Cole Raymond of Super 14U was named the 14U Fall Harvest Most Valuable Player. The Diamond Jacks (4-0) outscored their opponents 44-0. The Marlins (4-1) were dead even in run differential, 27-27.
RCBC MARUCCI NATIONALS
RCBC Marucci Nationals defeated Jersey Shore Wave, 5-4, in the 16U Fall Harvest Blue Bracket championship game. Robert Cavalieri of RCBC Marucci Nationals was named the 16U Fall Harvest Blue Bracket Most Valuable Player. RCBC (4-0) outscored its opponents 38-6. Jersey Shore Wave (3-1-1) held a 31-21 runs advantage on its opponents.
The Bridgewater Bombers defeated the Diamond Jacks Super 16U, 10-2, in the 16U Fall Harvest championship game. Alex Payne of Bridgewater was named the 16U Fall Harvest Red Bracket Most Valuable Player. The Bombers (4-0) outscored their opponents 57-2. The Diamond Jacks Super 16U held a 46-23 runs advantage on its opponents.