Evan Salla showed just how deep the U.S. Elite Pa. lineup is when the No. 8 hitter went 3-for-3, drove in four runs and scored twice to lead the Harrisburg club to a wild 15-10 victory over the Central Jersey Rebels and the 10U King of the Diamond championship last night at Diamond Nation.
Salla tripled in two runs early in a nine-run top of the second inning for U.S. Elite Pa., then capped the onslaught with a two-run single in an inning his team sent 13 batters to the plate. Salla, tournament MVP Easton Martin and closer Mason Neutzel stepped to the fore for U.S. Elite Pa. during a day that got colder by the hour in Flemington.
The top of the Rebels batting order got to Nuetzel in the bottom of the fifth, the Mercer County club’s final at bat. Leadoff hitter Jace Hernandez singled to center field and Dante Bucchianico followed with a double to left-center field that put both runners in scoring position.
Chris Alonzo then singled through the middle to score Hernandez, chase Bucchianico to third and shave the deficit to 15-10. Alonzo would then steal second base. But right-handed Neutzel seemed to find his command, curveball and bravado all at once.
Neutzel struck out the next three batters in order to short-circuit the Rebels’ rally and nail down the hard-fought 15-10 victory and the championship.
“Mason is our most consistent strike thrower,” said U.S. Elite coach Trey Pritchard. “He throws strikes and gets big outs.”
Neutzel certainly challenged the Rebels’ hitters. He permitted four runs, but just one was earned, on six hits over the final three innings. He struck out eight and walked two. And he didn’t flinch in the face of adversity in that tense last inning.
Salla also helped trigger U.S. Elite’s five-run eruption in the fourth inning that extended the lead to 15-9. Aiden Reisinger reached on an error leading off the inning and Salla followed with a single into left-center field. Both would eventually score as U.S. Elite (4-0) took advantage of a pair of Rebels errors, two walks and hit-by-pitch. Milez Hobby brought a run home with an infield single, Andrew Barder delivered an RBI single to center and Jaxon Warner’s sac fly scored the final run of the rally.
“Evan has simplified his swing,” said Pritchard. “He’s seeing the ball deeper in the zone and he’s hitting it the other way.” The righty-hitting Salla launched his triple over the right fielder’s head.
Central Jersey Rebels (3-1) scored two runs in the first inning and three in the second to stay within striking distance, then tacked on four more runs in the third to draw within a run at 10-9. Vinny Paolillo ripped a two-run single to left field and Tyler Rich followed with a two-run single to center to cap the rally and erase any thoughts of a rout by U.S. Elite Pa.
Neutzel, who relieved in the third, got out of that jam by striking out the final two batters in order.
Martin singled and scored in the middle of U.S. Elite’s big second inning, reached on an error in the third and drew a walk in the fourth. His contribution was consistent throughout the weekend.
“Easton pitched a complete game for us earlier on Sunday in pool play,” said Pritchard of Martin’s six-inning effort in a 12-2 victory over Cavalry Baseball. “And he kept coming up with clutch hits the rest of the tournament.”
NOTES: Haiden Haines reached base in all four trips to the plate for U.S. Elite. He reached on a fielder’s choice, was hit by a pitch twice and drew a walk. … Starting pitcher Milez Hobby had a bunt single and scored in the second inning and reached on an infield single and scored in the fourth. … Barder went 2-for-3, drove in two runs and scored a run for U.S. Elite.
… Rebels leadoff hitter Hernandez went 3-for-3 with two bunt singles and a single to center. He also scored three runs. … Paolillo knocked in three runs for the Rebels with a fielder’s choice grounder and a two-run single. … Andrew Vasil drove in a run on a fielder’s choice bouncer, scored a run and drew a walk for the Rebels. The Rebels outscored their four opponents 39-20. U.S. Elite Pa. held a 50-26 runs advantage on its opponents.
King of the Diamond recaps
Bakes Brewers defeated Cavalry Baseball 9U, 10-2, in the 9U King of the Diamond championship game. Tyler Ballard of Bakes Brewers was named the 9U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Bakes Brewers (4-0) outscored its opponents 47-11. Cavalry Baseball 9U (2-2) was outscored by its opponents 32-31.
GRIT 11U BLACK
Grit 11U Black defeated the Diamond Jacks Super 11U, 8-1, in the 11U King of the Diamond championship game. Brandon Maldonado and Bryce Tesseyman of Grit 11U Black were named the co-MVPs of the 11U tournament. Grit 11U Black (4-0) outscored its opponents 55-4. The Super 11U held a 26-22 runs advantage on its opponents.
DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 12U
The Diamond Jacks Super 12U defeated Hustle Baseball Academy, 9-4, in the 12U King of the Diamond championship game. T.J. Dally of Super 12U was named the Most Valuable Player of the 12U tournament. The Super 12U (5-0) outscored its opponents 48-7. Hustle Baseball Academy (4-1) held a 31-14 runs advantage on its opponents.
DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 13U
The Diamond Jacks Super 13U defeated the Connecticut Grind 13U, 6-5, in the 13U King of the Diamond championship game. Nehemiah Diaz of Super 13U was named the 13U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Super 13U (5-0) outscored its opponents 40-22. The Grind (4-1) held a 39-10 runs advantage on its opponents.
DIAMOND JACKS SUPER 14U
The Diamond Jacks Super 14U defeated Cavalry Baseball, 13-0, in the 14U King of the Diamond championship game. Brandon Lall of Super 14U was named the 14U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Super 14U (5-0) outscored its opponents 50-6. Cavalry Baseball (4-1) held a 37-32 runs advantage on its opponents.