Team Elite 17U starts season in fine fashion with HR Classic title

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 4, 2024

By Sean Reillly

Team Elite Liberty 17U had the look of a well-oiled machine throughout the weekend at Diamond Nation. 

The team from New York won all five of its games, capped by a 3-0 victory over the Easton Area Baseball Organization Riverdawgs 17U for the championship of the 17/18U Home Run Classic. 

With a 38-8 run differential, Team Elite hit and pitched like a team that’s been working together for quite awhile. 

Right? Actually, wrong.

“This was our first tournament as a team, without any practices,” said third baseman Max Doninger. “We just showed up and balled.” 

Doninger broke a scoreless tie by hitting a two-run single with two out in the top of the fifth inning. Wim Nook added an RBI base hit with two out in the seventh for additional insurance.

James Lippe worked the first 1⅓  innings for Team Elite, allowing no hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Chris Nell pitched the remaining 5⅔  innings, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts and three walks. 

“This was a great team win overall,” said Doninger, who was selected tournament MVP. “I love playing with my boys. We got clutch at-bats when we needed them, and the pitching was great all weekend.” 

In the championship game, there was only one hit through the first four innings. That was a two-out single by Jacoby Jacobs of EABO in the third. 

The Riverdawgs also began the fourth inning with two walks. After a strikeout, a double steal put runners on second and third. A fly ball to center field was caught by Elijah Clardy, who threw to catcher Anthony Decesare in time to beat a tagging runner for an inning-ending double play.

Max Doninger of Team Elite 17U was named MVP of the 17U Home Run Classic. 

Team Elite carried that momentum into the top of the fifth. Ninth batter Matei Vasiliu walked on a full count and stole second, additionally taking third on an errant throw. Leadoff man Larry Hotaling was hit by a pitch and stole second.

After a strikeout, Doninger followed with the biggest at-bat of the game. He immediately lined a two-run single to right-center. It was the first hit of the game for Team Elite against EABO starter Jameson Stell. 

“I was sitting on a breaking ball,” Doninger said. “I saw a lot of fastballs earlier, and figured I’d get a breaking ball. I just knocked it the other way and it was a big two runs for the team. Props to their pitcher. He had a nice slide piece and nice change piece that kept us on our toes, but we fought hard and got the dub at the end.” 

The other Team Elite run came after the first two batters were retired in the seventh. Hotaling hit a double to deep right field, and Nook drove him in with a line single past first base. 

Stell wound up pitching the first five innings for EABO, allowing the one hit to Doninger with eight strikeouts and five walks. 

Doninger added a single in the seventh to finish 2-for-4. He went 7-for-11 over the five games.

“I felt good,” he said. “I saw the ball well out of the hand. I was just trying to do my job for the team and get a few barrels.”

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