Utilizing great movement on his fastball and guile with his curveball, Diamond Jacks Gold 18U righthander Nate Scott limited Locked In Expos White to two hits over five innings on the way to a 6-2 victory and the 17/18U Fall Brawl championship.
Scott permitted one run, which was unearned, while striking out six and walking two on a chilly Sunday night at Diamond Nation.
“My fastball was moving well and my curveball was spinning well,” said Scott, a senior at New Providence High. “My changeup was okay, too. Getting ahead of hitters was big for me tonight.”
Scott worked quickly and efficiently and had some funkiness in his delivery that made his darting 82-84 mile-per-hour fastball an even bigger problem to solve during his 65-pitch outing.
“Nate threw very well,” said Diamond Jacks Gold 18U coach Brian Del Rosso. “He competes and he keeps batters off balance. He switches up his delivery a bit and has every batter guessing.”
Scott retired the first seven Locked In Expos batters of the game, striking out three of them, before surrendering a single to Joe Skapinetz and walking Jeff Policarpio with one out in the third. But Scott got out of the jam when he induced a line out to center field and a groundout to second base.
Lefthander Jake Sempervive stranded three Diamond Jack runners in the first two innings to help carry a scoreless game into the bottom of the third inning, where the Diamond Jacks finally broke through.
Brian Finn reached on a throwing error with two outs in the third to bring up No. 3 hitter and Gold 18U shortstop Dylan Brunetti. The senior at Hunterdon Central worked the count to 2-2 before getting a pitch he could drive.
“He was getting me with curveballs,” said Brunetti, who struck out swinging at a nasty Sempervive breaker in the first inning. “I got the count to 2-2 and he threw a fastball a little high and inside. I just turned on it.” Brunetti unloaded a rainbow of a shot to left field that easily cleared the fence for a two-run home run.
The Diamond Jacks extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Mike Motta reached on a throwing error that allowed Tim Wright to score all the way from second base. Wright ignited the rally going with two outs when he dropped a well-placed seven-iron into right-center field for a single. Zack Repetto then drew a walk before Motta’s grounder.
Sempervive battled gamely and deserved a better fate. He surrendered three runs, all of which were unearned, on three hits over four innings, striking out five and walking three.
Locked In, with a lineup consisting predominantly of players from Morris County, scratched back with a run in the top of the fourth. The top of the Expos order got it going when leadoff batter Thomas Burns drew a walk and No. 2 hitter Dennis Moynihan followed with a single through the middle. Brendan Mariani then ripped a lined drive that appeared destined for center field, but Brunetti dove flat out and caught it for the out. He then quickly threw a backup toss to second baseman Finn to double off Burns.
Andrew Holmes then reached on a throwing error that also sent Moynihan all the way to third base. Moynihan would score Locked In’s first run when Karson Harcourt reached on a throwing error. Brunetti was in the middle of things again when he lassoed Christian Ortiz’s bouncer behind second base and stepped on the bag to end the threat.
Scott returned to his more dominant self in the fifth, his last inning, when he struck out the side in order.
“Nate is usually a weekday pitcher for us but we had the extra games because of the playoffs and he wanted to be out there,” said Del Rosso.
The Diamond Jacks then erupted for three runs in the bottom of the fifth to turn their slim 3-1 lead into a more comfortable 6-1 advantage. Locked In went to its bullpen and got in trouble quickly when Booth, Finn and Brunetti drew back-to-back-to-back walks to load the bases with no outs.
Diamond Jacks catcher Michael Cowell then stepped in with one out and launched a grounds rule double to left field that easily scored Booth and Finn for a 5-1 lead. Kyle Insabella, who would be named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, then hit a slow bouncer to the right side that went for an infield single and scored Brunetti from third for a 6-1 lead.
Locked In would get a run in the sixth, its last at bat, off Diamond Jacks reliever Greg Carillo, who walked three and hit a batter in the inning. His two-out walk to Holmes brough Jason Arrigo in to shave the deficit to 6-2. But, with the tying run suddenly at the plate, Carillo got a strike three swinging on a curveball to end the game.
Despite the two errors that led to all of the Diamond Jacks runs, Locked In actually played well defensively. Shortstop Arrigo looked extremely slick on his four putouts. And right fielder Jadon Edwards made the play of the game when he chased down a laser by Cowell deep in the right-center field gap for the first out of the second inning. Edwards made an outstanding backhanded grab on a dead run.
Booth, the Diamond Jacks right fielder, also made a nice catch on Moynihan’s hard line drive to right-center in the sixth.
The Diamond Jacks Gold 18U (4-0) outscored their Fall Brawl opponents 19-6. Locked In Expos White (3-2) held a 24-11 runs advantage on their opponents.