Sportika 17U National first baseman Hunter Del Guercio handles throw from shortstop Christian Yoo to complete a 4-6-3 double play.
By Sean Reilly
Sportika 17U National came to Diamond Nation the past two weeks hoping for its players to be seen, but also wanting to win.
It was a successful mission on all fronts for the Monmouth County-based team, which closed out a two-week run in Flemington by defeating MA Show 16U National, 4-3, on Friday morning in the final game for both at the five-day Super 17 Invitational.
The victory completed a 4-0-1 week at “The Nation” for Sportika, on the heels of a 5-0 showing while also playing in the first week of the Super 17, June 20-24.
It was a great opportunity for Sportika to gear up for the rest of its season, which includes an upcoming trip to Massachusetts, while also enabling its uncommitted players to be evaluated by the dozens of college coaches who attended the two tournaments.
“It’s unbelievable to come here back-to-back weeks at 17U and be undefeated,” said Sportika coach Nick Franke Jr. “It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling. We’ve been together for nine years. We’ve stuck together and grown as a team.”
In Friday’s victory, all of Sportika’s scoring came with two out in a third-inning uprising which resulted in a 4-0 lead. While the offense may have been concentrated in one frame, its defense and pitching was impressive throughout.
Sportika, which outscored its opponents 30-3 last week and 38-7 this week, sent nine men to the plate in the top of third and began its rally with one out.
Kyle McSorley, a 6-4 catcher from Old Bridge, hit a single to center field, before a ground out to third base moved the runner to second. Alexander D’Ambrosio of Marlboro then delivered an RBI single to left field. James Asmus from New Hyde Park, N.Y. followed with a single off the leg of the pitcher, and Daniel Ciprian of Linden walked on a full count to load the bases. McSorley and Ciprian played in the Quad County Underclass All-Star Game the night before.
Christian Yoo from Robbinsville was then hit by a pitch to score the second run, and Luke Treese from Peddie walked to bring in another run. Leadoff man Michael Villani of Old Bridge followed with an RBI single to center field, and the inning ended when a second runner trying to score on the play was erased at the plate.
Sportika got a strong outing from starting pitcher Jordan Herbstman of Old Bridge, a 6-2 lefty who has committed to Virginia Tech. He pitched three hitless innings, with three strikeouts and three walks.
The South Jersey-based MA Show, which finished 3-2 on the week, scored all of its runs against Sportika’s first reliever in the bottom of the fourth.
Austin Cannon from Msgr. Bonner (Pa.) led off and was hit by a pitch. Ryan Zimmer (Audubon) and Tyler Tucker (Hun) both walked on full counts to load the bases with nobody out. Cannon scored on wild pitch before a strikeout. Drew Haines of Hammonton then hit an RBI single to center field before Jack Knorr of Group 1 champ Woodstown grounded out to shortstop to bring in the third run. A full-count strikeout ended the inning.
The Sportika pitchers allowed just one more baserunner, on a two-out walk in the fifth, the rest of the way. Tresse pitched the final two innings, and retired all six men he faced, two by strikeout.
“We’re off to Boston on Wednesday and we’ll try to come home from there undefeated,” Franke said. “It’s a great atmosphere here and we’re battle-tested. So we’ll go there and we’re going to give it our best shot and roll guys out there who are going D1, play good D and see what happens.”
If the Diamond Nation showing, capped by Friday’s victory, is an indication, Sportika 17U National will be in good shape.
“We got pitching and we got defense,” Franke said of the win over MA Show. “We’re not really swinging it right now, but we’ll get going. The hitting will come, and if you pitch and play defense, you’re in games, and that’s been our motto.”
One of the offensive sparks for the team has been Hunter Del Guercio, a first baseman from Christian Brothers Academy. He hit three home runs over the course of the 10 games in Flemington.
“I felt like my at-bats were good,” he said. “I was seeing the ball well and I was getting my pitches. I like the fields here, it’s turf, especially when I’m playing at first base. Playing on turf I feel a little bit faster and I just think the ball flies here. If I hit the ball good enough, I feel like it’s going to go. The competition is always good here. I feel like there’s never a game that we are going to roll over a team. We always have to fight, playing good competition and seeing good pitching, which is good for us.”