Matt Moore of the Diamond Jacks tries to beat a throw to first baseman Jamie Massung.
By Joe Hofmann
Shane Sullivan dug into the plate, got the pitch he wanted, took a big swing, and … fouled it off.
“I would have liked to have that one back,” the Diamond Jacks Gold 17U extra hitter said.
The next pitch, Sullivan beat out an infield hit and later scored in his first at bat, which was a preview of the morning he was about to have.
The Hunterdon Central senior bats 11th — at the bottom of the order — but provided his team a big lift by going 2-for-2 with an RBI, was hit by a pitch and scored twice as the Diamond Jacks beat Baseball U of Central Pa., 4-1, in the Blue Chip Prospects 17-18U Tournament held at Diamond Nation on Tuesday.
“I made some good contact,” Sullivan said. “Everything felt good today.”
“He gave us what we needed at the bottom of the order,” coach Mike Buckelew added. “He gave us a spark and made things happen. We got off to a slow start but he gave us a lift, no question about it.”
The Diamond Jacks struggled against dominant starter Dakota Brodzina until reaching him for a run in the fourth.
Brodzina retired the first nine Diamond Jacks hitters using a fastball and slider on the way to four strikeouts.
Enter Sullivan, who led off the fourth with his infield hit and reached second when Baseball U’s throw to second to get the double play was off line (batter Matt Moore was out at first). Brayden Keller was intentionally walked on a 3-1 count, the first of Baseball U’s many interesting pitching maneuvers throughout the game.
Brodzina then fanned No. 3 hitter Lance Eilbacher with a fastball but then gave up Matt Westrott’s infield hit up the first base line to load the bases.
Brodzina, who didn’t let a ball get out of the infield through 3 2/3 innings, was removed after walking Jacob Rosado, forcing in a run and tying the game at 1-1.
Reliever Gino Pignetti came on and retired Ben Fonseca on one pitch with a popout to second.
In the fifth, the Diamond Jacks took the lead for good when, with one out, Sebastian Morales singled to right, chasing Pignetti, who’d pitched to a mere three batters.
Lefty Dallas Alexander came on in the middle of the inning and walked Logan Sheruda before Sullivan had an RBI single to right, making it 2-1 and putting his team ahead for good.
“I got the count to 2-and-0 and I was aggressive because I knew he had to come in and throw a strike,” Sullivan said. “I got a good pitch to hit.”
In the sixth, Eilbacher led off with a double to center before Alexander got the next batter looking at a curveball … but Alexander, who’d faced only six hitters, was then removed in favor of Zach Wertman, who then gave up Jacob Rosado’s sac fly.
In the seventh, the Diamond Jacks added on — and, incredibly, faced two more pitchers during the inning.
Sheruda reached on an infield hit and Sullivan was plunked on the elbow by a pitch. Moore walked and that was all for Wertman, who was replaced by Caleb Hicks, who walked in a run. Eilbacher drew a walk to bring home another run and Hicks’ day was done as he was removed in favor of Jamie Massung, who gave up Westrott’s sac fly.
Diamond Jacks pitchers Nick Perillo (four innings) and Jordan Chui (three), meanwhile, limited Baseball U. to one run on one hit.
Perillo gave up an unearned run in the third when he fanned Hayden Houser — only to see Houser reach first when the ball eluded the catcher. Two stolen bases later, Houser scored on Logan Heyman’s 4-3 grounder.
Perillo walked the first two hitters of the game he faced — Antonio Thomas and Hicks — but then struck out Wertman, got a forceout on a nice play by Rosado at third base, and Sheruda threw out Goodwin trying to steal second.
Perillo allowed no hits through four innings, fanned six and walked two.
“I was nice and loose and threw a good fastball, but my offspeed pitch didn’t have the break I wanted,” Perillo said. “The majority of the game, I threw my fastball and threw maybe five offspeed pitches, which is kind of like a slurve. That one inning (the third) was rough but stuff happens. I didn’t let that get the best of me.”
Chui, meanwhile, came on in the fifth and allowed no runs on one hit, fanning one and walking three.
“Our pitchers threw well,” Buckelew said. “Nick pitched to contact and threw four solid innings. Jordan did what he always does. He threw strikes and let the defense make the plays.”