Reid Uccello steals home ahead of throw from the pitcher, scoring the go-ahead run.
By Sean Reilly
Reid Uccello isn’t just a talented baseball player. He’s also an observant one.
His ability to capitalize on one small thing he picked up on earlier in the contest made the difference for his South Jersey Young Guns 2024 team winning a game on Thursday morning at the Diamond Nation Super 17 Invitational.
Uccello was the runner on third base when his team had the bases loaded with score tied and two out in the top of the seventh inning against The Sports Yard, from Syracuse, N.Y.
He, along with his coach, had noticed the opposing catcher sometimes had an ever-so-slight delay in throwing the ball back to the pitcher.
So, with teammate Nikhilesh Mehta at the plate, he sensed that it was time to make a move. After taking a big lead down the line during an offering to Mehta, he timed the throw back to the pitcher. Once it was released, Uccello made a dash toward the plate and scored ahead of a hurried return throw from the pitcher.
His alert straight steal of home turned out to be the winning run, as the Young Guns beat The Sports Yard, 4-3, in Flemington.
The Young Guns followed that win with an 8-0 triumph over the Diamond Jacks Gold 17U to complete a 4-0 week at the tournament.
There are no playoffs at the event, but the top five teams in the 90-team field earn invites to the Super 17 Top 25 tournament in August. The Young Guns are currently atop the tournament leaderboard.
They are in that spot because of the hustle play by Uccello, who just completed his junior season at Shawnee High School. It was the result of something he had talked about earlier with Young Guns coach Pat Fisher.
“Me and the coach had been talking about it during the game,” Uccello said. “We noticed it and took advantage of it. It feels great.”
They were waiting for the perfect moment to try the play. And in that score tied, bases loaded, two-out spot in the top of the final inning, they found it.
“Coach was telling me to read the catcher because he was throwing late back to the pitcher,” Ucello said. “I just read it good and I got home. I led about halfway down the line. I got a big lead because he wasn’t looking at me. So I got the big lead and took it home.”
Aside from breaking the tie, the steal of home also snatched momentum away from The Sports Yard. That’s because the Young Guns began the inning by loading the bases with nobody out, only to have the first out recorded on a second-to-home force out with the infield in, followed by a strikeout. Just when it looked like the third out was coming, Ucello stole home with the go-ahead run.
The Sports Yard did get a runner on second with two out in the bottom of the seventh, but a ground out to third ended the game.
Uccello’s play was not only a clutch one for the Young Guns, it also completed a comeback from a 3-0 deficit against The Sports Yard.
Jake Terranova rounds third and scores run for South Jersey Young Guns on hit by Bruce Parker.
The Sports Yard scored those runs in the bottom of the second. A one-out single to center field by Derek Rice was followed by walks to Ethan Dilmore and Grant Clark. Reagan Rifanburg then hit a two-run double to left field. The third run scored when Joey Ilacqua grounded out to second base.
The Young Guns closed to 3-2 in the top of the fourth. Jake Terranova hit a one-out single to center and took second on an error. Bruce Parker was up next, and hit an RBI triple to left field. He scored when Tommy Popoff grounded out to shortstop.
The Young Guns tied the game with a two-out rally in the sixth. Billy Theroux walked, advanced to second and took third on a wild pitch, before scoring on another wild pitch.
Then came the decisive seventh inning, which started with a single to left field by Popoff. Uccello was hit by a pitch, and they advanced on a double steal before Josh Herner walked to load the bases.
Gavin McCaffrey reached on the grounder to second which forced the lead runner at the plate. A strikeout to the next batter raised the drama level that culminated with Uccello’s delayed steal of home.
“It’s been a good week,” said Uccello, whose hitting was solid throughout, before going 0-for-2 prior to the seventh inning against The Sports Yard.
“Today had been kind of a rough game at the plate,” he said. “But that play helped to make up for it.”