The 9ers’ Mako Vezzosi slides home safely ahead of the throw to Wladyka catcher Andrew Young.
By Rich Bevensee
The fall baseball season is quickly winding down and many ball players spend this time working on kinks in their technique before they’re limited to indoor training.
By the looks of it, the 15U 9ers Baseball Club doesn’t have too many wrinkles to iron out, with Joey Spalliero leading an offense which slugs its way around the bases, and Brady Dill and Landon Hoyle sending hitters back to the dugout.
That’s how the 9ers opened competition at the 15U Fall Brawl on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington. Spalliero doubled, tripled, drove in a run and scored twice while Dill and Hoyle combined on a four-hitter in a 9-1 victory over Wladyka American.
Coach Nick Belka, who guided the 9ers 18U club to a win in a Garden State Scout League game at ‘The Nation’ two days earlier, said the approach is the same with the younger players about to embark on their high school careers.
“At any age, I always preach playing the game hard and taking advantage of every free 90 feet that we can,” Belka said. “It showed today. We were able to get offense going early, take advantage of mistakes and take care of the ball defensively.”
For the 9ers offensively, Stevie Malato scored the first run of the game on a steal of home, and he also had two hits and drove in two runs. Ben Faigin singled, doubled and scored twice. Ryan Billmoria doubled and drove in a run. Dill, Casper Billington, Mako Vezzosi and Noah Bravo each had an RBI.
Spalliero possessed the power bat of the game while displaying an ability to spray the ball. After reaching on an error in the first inning as part of a three-run rally, he doubled to the left-center gap in the second to give the 9ers a 4-1 lead. He flew out in the third and, in the sixth, he tripled to the right center gap to begin a two-run rally.
“Right now, honestly, I came into today feeling great,” said Spalliero, a freshman at Red Bank Catholic. “I’m getting my mechanics down and playing the same game every game. I gotta have the same stuff coming into every game. I was staying loose and playing my heart out.”
Dill, a freshman at Rumson-Fair Haven, has a four- or five-pitch arsenal, depending on when each pitch is working properly. Against Wladyka he allowed one run over the first three innings on two hits and two walks while striking out five.
Joey Spalliero blasts a triple to spark a two-run rally in the sixth for the 9ers.
“In the fall I’m working on keeping myself under control a little more and throwing more strikes definitely,” Dill said. “The slider was working really well today. The sinker is my primary fastball, I feel I can hit that well on the inside part of the plate. I’m developing a changeup and that’s gotten a lot better. I like to attack lefties with it. I’ve also got a two-seamer that runs down and the change dives.”
“Brady’s not afraid to throw different pitches for strikes, which is great, but I also tell him to use the fastball,” Belka said. “There’s no need to show them everything early in the game.”
Hoyle, a 6-2 lefty from Point Pleasant Boro, pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Dill, but not without running into a bit of trouble in the sixth and final inning. He got a comebacker for the first out before loading the bases on a walk and two hits.
Fortunately Hoyle trusted his defense and it paid off with a down-the-line grounder at third which Spalliero stabbed, stepped on third and threw to first for a game-ending double play.
“Landon’s a big lefty who’s not afraid to use his fastball, and he can be intimidating up there when it’s working,” Belka said.
Hoyle, using primarily that heavy fastball, allowed two hits, two walks and struck out four.
“In the sixth I wasn’t coming through all the way, just kind of short-arming it, letting my arm drag,” said Hoyle, whose primary pitch was a two-seamer which tails away from right-handed batters. “I was thinking too much after cruising through the first two innings. I’ll be working on not letting my arm drag through and just throwing harder.”
The 9ers dropped a 13-1 decision to the PA Shockers on Saturday and were set to play the Diamond Jacks 15U Gold on Sunday afternoon.
Wladyka fell, 14-0, to the Diamond Jacks 15U Gold on Saturday and faces the PA Shockers Sunday afternoon. The four-team playoffs begin Sunday at 6:30 p.m. and the 15U final is at 8:30 p.m.