Solid pitching steers 9ers Baseball to first win at Blue Chips

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 2, 2023

LVBA Prospects’ first baseman Andrew Sagrestano singled in a run during this at bat.

By Will Harrigan

The 9ers Baseball Club’s 17U squad is wrapping up what has been a very busy summer this week at Diamond Nation.

Traditionally one of the stronger Jersey Shore-based travel programs, this 9ers squad has had four of its players commit to Division I schools already, and several more are expected to in the next week or so. 

On Wednesday morning, the 9ers took another step toward ending their summer on a high note.

Striking for three runs in the first and riding terrific pitching the rest of the way, the 9ers notched a 5-3 victory over LVBA Prospects 17/18U National  in the Blue Chip Prospects at ‘The Nation’. 

The victorious Niners evened their record at 1-1 for the week and will close out their season with a double-header tomorrow. LVBA Prospects – with many of its players hailing from greater Allentown and Bethlehem (Pa.) – dropped to 1-1 on the week.

“It’s been a long but productive summer, and it’s always fun. I’ve coached these guys all the way up since they were 12,” said 9ers coach Corey Hamman, who doubles as Donovan Catholic’s head coach and made it up to Triple-A as a pitcher in his playing days. “We matched up some key hits with taking advantage of walks and got good pitching today.” Hamman played at Roxbury High then Montclair State University. 

The 9ers wasted no time hopping out to a lead in the first.

Ray Mulhern and Matthew Brunner each drew a walk to set the table, and Rory Finn would quickly follow that up with a single to juice the bases with no one out. Clean-up batter Jake Howlett cashed in by grounding into a fielder’s choice to open the scoring.

The .9ers would continue to effectively play small ball, as Joseph Maier followed that with an RBI grounder to short to score Brunner and double the lead to 2-0. A dropped fly ball off Braden Walsh’s bat allowed the third run to come around to score.

9ers batter Rory Finn stands in at the dish during Wednesday’s win.

A single and stolen base by Brady Ness helped LVBA get one back in the bottom half of the frame. With Ness in scoring position, Andrew Sagrestano laced a single to center to cut the deficit to 3-1.

From there, the .9ers pitching tandem of Brayden Cimorelli and E.J. Stefanelli was terrific, combining to toss five innings of two-hit ball to keep the .9ers in front into the final inning.

“Those guys threw the ball really well. They’ve been steady all summer,” Hamman said. “They struck out nine guys in those five innings, which kind of shows what they have.”

Already in relief by the fourth, Stefanelli singled in Joseph Bentivegna – who had singled himself – to add an insurance run. In the seventh, Bentivegna walked, stole second, and gained the last 180 feet by advancing on a pair of wild pitches for the fifth run.

Defensive miscues made things a bit more stressful than they had to be for the .9ers in the seventh.

A fielding error and a dropped ball on a force out that should have been a double play spotted LVBA a pair of outs, with the latter allowing LVBA to score. With the bases loaded and two outs in a 5-2 game, Hayden Stezenko walked to force in a run before a strikeout ended the rally.

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