Ungaro assumes role as staff horse for USA Prime Northeast

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 4, 2023

Quran Williams of USA Prime hits a triple into the right field corner in the second inning.

By Rich Bevensee

For the second time in just a few months, Anthony Ungaro has been thrust into the role of pitching staff workhorse. By all accounts, he has handled the challenge like a seasoned veteran.

This spring, injuries to two of his teammates on the pitching staff at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, N.J., forced Ungaro to assume a much larger role, and he responded by logging the third most innings pitched on the team.

Ungaro has been tasked with an ace label once more, this time with his summer team, USA Prime Northeast 16U Gold, whose No. 1 arm is on the shelf temporarily. Ungaro used the team’s summer debut at Diamond Nation in Flemington to show nothing has changed with regard to his ability to shoulder the load.

Ungaro, a 6-1, 180-pound righty, scattered seven hits over six innings and did not allow a walk in carrying Prime to a 4-2 pool play victory over In The Zone College Prep in the 17/18U Wood Bat bracket of the Home Run Classic Powered by Victus on Saturday evening at ‘The Nation.’

“The school year went really well,” Ungaro said. “I was probably our second best because we had two guys injured. In that situation I feel like I perform better, under pressure, because I really lock in to perform my best.”

Prime’s best pitcher may be Kingsway sophomore Ryan Gollon, according to Prime coach Jared Moore, who said because of recent high pitch counts he’s off the Prime staff until late June.

And that’s where Ungaro comes in, filling a gap and performing admirably. On Saturday, he struck out seven in his six innings of work using primarily a fastball and slider and he slipped out of danger twice to keep ITZ at bay.

“Location was his biggest thing tonight,” Moore said. “He was painting every spot I called, so we were working away and they couldn’t hit away, top to bottom. He was efficient early in the count, and he consistently used  three or four pitches to get them out.”

“The key is throwing strikes and not walking people,” Ungaro said. “If I’m not throwing a strike I just reset and throw it again. I could have warmed up a little better and kept the velo up but I think I threw pretty well.”

Ungaro was staked to a 3-0 lead by less than conventional means.

In the top of the second inning, Quran Williams lofted a triple into the right field corner which likely would have been caught if it wasn’t wind blown. Shortly after, he was on third and Nick Dromboski was on first. Williams already had a head start by taking a secondary lead on the pitch, and when Dromboski broke for second and the throw went to the bag, Williams broke for home and easily scored. Dromboski later scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 Prime lead.

Ajani Bowrin of In The Zone College Prep fueled his team’s fourth-inning, two-run rally by driving in a run and later scoring.

Prime made it 3-0 in the fourth with a two-out rally. Catcher Peter Burnley walked and Nick Traynor replaced him as a courtesy runner. Matt Stern singled and they both advanced on a passed ball. Williams hit a short chopper to third and as ITZ’s third baseman Evan Rodriguez charged to field the ball, he brushed against pitcher Adam Goldberg and dropped the ball, allowing Traynor to score.

ITZ jumped back into the game in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to Mendham freshman Ajani Bowrin. Jesse Lance singled and eventually scored on Bowrin’s two-out fielder’s choice. Bowrin would have been thrown at third on an attempted steal but the throw was dropped. Bowrin charged home when the next batter, Andrew Kosiak, hit a soft tapper in front of the plate.

Collon gave Prime a much-needed insurance run in the top of the sixth. Collon, who earlier doubled to right-center and flew out to deep center, once again crushed another pitch to center with the bases loaded. The sacrifice fly was deep enough to score Aaron Menickella from third for a 4-2 Prime lead.

“With a lefty out there (ITZ reliever Andrew Simmons) I was thinking about putting something in the air to drive home the runner, just thinking about first pitch strike,” said the lefty-hitting Collon. “Going through those first two at bats, I was feeling confident up there and thinking about driving it as far as I could.”

ITZ got a pair of runners into scoring position in the bottom of the sixth but Ungaro stranded them both with an inning-ending strikeout. Nick Dromboski pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning for Prime.

Adam Goldberg pitched five innings for ITZ and yielded five runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Simmons pitched the sixth and was charged with a run on two hits and a walk and he struck out one. Evan Johnson gave up a single in a scoreless seventh inning.

ITZ chalked up a pair of web gems in the fourth inning. Gollon crushed an offering from Goldberg into deep center field, but a galloping Bowrin, with his back to the field, managed to track it down and pick it out of the air at the last second. One batter later, Rodriguez dove to his right to smother a hot smash from Traynor and then threw from his knees across the diamond to throw him out at first.

With the victory over ITZ, Prime swept its Saturday doubleheader. Earlier the Westampton, N.J., based club defeated Uncommon 2024 Gold, 2-1. Prime was set to play the Bucks County Generals 2024s on Sunday at 

4:30 p.m. to complete pool play.

The 4-2 loss for ITZ was identical to the score in its earlier loss to the Bucks County Generals 2024s. ITZ was to face the South Jersey Blue Jays on Sunday at 2:15 p.m.

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