Steady Benitez leads Grit 10U Orange to 10U World Series title

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 12, 2023

By Sean Reilly

Mason Benitez felt a bit anxious on Monday night, and understandably so.

He was the starting pitcher for Grit 10U Orange in the championship of the Diamond Nation 10U Youth World Series tournament against the powerful Bayside Yankees American, who had beaten the Grit earlier in the weekend.

It was also the team’s first game played on Field 2, the marquee setting for young players at ‘The Nation,’ and the prime time, under-the-lights environment further added to the vibe.

“I think we were a little nervous coming into this game,” Benitez said. “They were a good team and I needed to shut them down.”

Benitez thrived both on the mound and at the plate. He allowed four runs (three in the first inning) over a four-inning stint, and also went 3-for-4 with three runs and one RBI, as Grit 10U Orange gained a 17-8 victory in Flemington.

Benitez was selected tournament MVP, enabling him to return home to Rockland County with that trophy in addition to the individual first-place medal and championship ring earned by everyone on his team.

But above all, he left with the satisfaction of a great weekend for his team, which went 3-1-1 with a 54-26 run differential. And all of that success happened after a 4-1 loss to the Bayside Yankees American in the tournament opener on Saturday.

“I love it,” said Benitez, about the whole experience of competing at Diamond Nation.

Grit 10U Orange generated 16 hits in the final, with the first five in the batting order – Kyle Poppe, Benitez, Chase Donohue, Xavier Crespo and Max Polanco – going a combined 12-for-17 with 11 runs.

That group accounted for four runs scored in the top of the first. Polanco had an RBI single to right field with the bases loaded and one out to score Poppe, and, with the bases loaded and two out, a ball hit by Sebastian Abreu resulted in an infield error and then a second error in the outfield, allowing Donohue, Crespo and Polanco to all score.

The Yankees got three of those runs back in the bottom of the frame. Anthony Verde (3-for-4) and Bobby Cruz led off with singles, the latter on a ball that glanced off Benitez. Verde scored on a ground out to shortstop by Nick Grigonis, and a wild pitch on a strikeout scored the second run. Anthony Arvelo followed with a triple to left-center, and he scored when Jesse Baldassare reached on an error.

Benitez pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, with three groundouts, and that seemed to settle him into a groove.

“That helped a lot,” he said about the clean inning.

Grit 10U Orange, which played four games on Monday due to a rainout on Sunday, showed absolutely no signs of tiring.

Mason Benitez of Grit 10U was named MVP of the 10U Youth World Series.

It added three more runs in the third, getting an RBI double to right field from Crespo, a sacrifice fly by Polanco and an RBI single from Bryce Daley, for a 7-3 lead.

The Yankees got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning. Verde led off with a single and went to third on a two-base error. But Benitez stayed cool. Cruz hit an RBI groundout to shortstop, and the pitcher retired the third and fourth Yankees batters to maintain a three-run advantage.

Grit 10U Orange then put the game out of reach with a five-run fourth. After the first two batters reached on an error and a walk, Colton Maus drove in both with a triple to left-center. Poppe followed with an RBI single to right field, and after a hit by Benitez, Donohue (3-for-4) supplied a run-scoring single. The last run of the inning came on a wild pitch.

Benitez was replaced on the mound in the fifth, and the Yankees touched the bullpen for two runs, with Verde hitting an RBI triple before Grigonis hit a run-scoring single.

Grit 10U Orange scored five more times in the sixth, highlighted by an RBI triple by Benitez, to extend the lead to 17-6.

Ryan Sutter hit a two-run triple for the Yankees in the bottom of the inning.

In addition to Benitez and Donohue, Crespo also went 3-for-4 for Grit. Polanco was 2-for-2 with his sacrifice fly and a hit by pitch, and Maus was 2-for-3.

Grit 10U Orange was able to reach the final by rallying from five runs down to tie the Bucks County Generals, 9-9, in the final pool game that immediately preceded the final. Both teams had identical records, but Grit 10U Orange advanced to the final by virtue of allowing one less run over the four pool games.

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