Sebastian Velasquez of Team Francisco is greeted by teammates after hitting 2-run HR.
By Sean Reilly
The Team Francisco Notorious 9 is a 16U squad that came to Diamond Nation this week to gain both experience and exposure for its players while taking part in a loaded 17/18U Blue Chip Prospects tournament.
But make no mistake – Team Francisco Notorious 9 also traveled from its Long Island base to Flemington looking to win.
“We’re trying to get as much exposure for our uncommitted guys as possible,” coach Joe Francisco said. “We’re a straight 16U team, but we’ve been playing up against older guys since they were 13 or 14, so that’s nothing really new. But we’re here to compete and we’re here to win always.”
Its mission was successful on every level after finishing off a perfect week at “The Nation” with a 9-2 decision over the Crossbridge Raiders on Wednesday morning, with plenty of college coaches on hand watching it happen.
Those coaches who were taking notes saw plenty to like.
“At this point, where they’re at in their careers, we want to get the uncommitted guys committed and let them follow their dreams and try to get them off to college,” Francisco said.
Team Francisco Notorious 9 went 4-0 during its stay, outscoring its opponents, 31-4. The performance has it in position to be one of the five teams from the 100 competing this week to qualify for the Super 25 Showcases tournament later this month at Diamond Nation.
Team Francisco Notorious 9 was sparked on Wednesday by an opportunistic offense that scored four times in the top of the first inning, and the strong pitching from left-hander Dominic Carbone, a rising senior at Rocky Point High School who has committed to Coastal Carolina.
Carbone had command of the strike zone, and allowed four hits over four and a third innings, with nine strikeouts and two walks. He also fielded his position extremely well. It was actually his lone appearance of the week at the tournament, since he was giving his body a rest after taxing spring and summer campaigns.
“My fastball and curveball were working for me mostly,” Carbone said. “I like to tunnel my fastball and curveball together. We had a great week and we’re on quite a roll. I needed to give my body a rest. It’s been a hard grind. I wanted to impress today, so I gave it my all.”
“Dom is awesome,” Francisco said. “We have three guys who throw 90 and as a 16 year old team, that’s pretty good. He filled up the zone, he’s got a nasty slider, his fastball was on and he did a great job.”
The Long Island crew got going in the first when Johnny Francisco led off with a double to right center field. He took third on a wild pitch, and Antonio D’Amore followed with a walk and stolen base. Carbone walked to load the bases.
The middle runner was then caught off second base, but instead of a tag, a rundown ensued. A throwing error during the rundown scored Francisco and advanced the others. Sebastian Velasquez walked to re-load the bases, and D’Amore scored the second run when Jack Ryan’s grounder resulted in a force out at third base.
The other two runs in the inning scored when Andrew Koshy was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded before Ryan raced home on a wild pitch with Jason DeCaro at the plate.
Team Francisco extended its lead to 6-0 by striking for two runs with two out in the third. Koshy walked, stole second and moved to third on a single to left by DeCaro. Both scored after an error on a ball hit by Michael Craig.
Carbone, meanwhile, retired the first eight batters — five by strikeout and another by his outstanding fielding play on a slow grounder along the third base line.
The streak ended when Reese Van Scoten walked for Crossbridge Raiders and teammate Mike Jolly singled to center and took second on a throw with two out in the third. Carbone then struck out the No. 1 hitter in the lineup for the third out.
Team Francisco added two more runs in the fourth. Carbone drew a one out walk and Velasquez followed with a home run over the fence in left field for an 8-0 score.
Crossbridge Raiders scored their first run in the bottom of the fifth. The inning began with singles by Nate Jones and Mike Chiaravella. They advanced on a double steal. Jones was retired after being tagged by Carbone after he fielded a tough comebacker. Chiaravello scored on a two-out wild pitch.
Team Francisco scored its final run in the top of the fifth on an RBI walk to Carbone.
Jolly had a run-scoring single in the bottom of the inning for Crossbridge, which has a mix of New Jersey and Pennsylvania players and finished its week with a 1-3 record.
Team Francisco Notorious 9 could head back to Long Island knowing that it made an impression in New Jersey.
“We preach fundamental baseball,” Francisco said. “We play fast, we steal bases, we bunt, we try to play sound, real baseball. Move runners over and get them in, play solid defense and throw strikes. It wins games.”