Sometimes it just takes a few innings to see when a team gets it. Warstic Citius 2021 is one of those teams.
Playing the game the way the game was meant to be played, the New York squad defeated Time To Sign Prospect, 6-0, to secure the 17/18U Garden State Invitational championship early Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Melding outstanding starting pitching, rock solid defense and an aggressive offense, Warstic Citius rolled to the championship of the five-day, 53-team tournament with a 7-0 record while dominating its opponents to the tune of a 42-7 runs advantage.
Righthander Gerard Santos stifled an impressive TTS Prospect lineup. The rising senior at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens shut out TTS on four hits over six innings, while striking out three and walking none. Santos worked an effective fastball and curveball and sprinkled in a few changeups to keep the TTS lineup on its heels.
Righthander Carlos Pegero closed out the shutout for Warstic Citius, pitching a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
“I was trying to effect their timing and keep them off balance,” said Santos, who, at times, has a delay in his windup. The change in delivery and an ability to pound the strike zone had its desired effect. Santos faced just three batters over the minimum in his six innings of work. Santos improved to 9-0-1 on the summer.
Warstic Citius struck for four runs in the top of the third inning, a lead that seemed larger by the inning as Santos and an air-tight defense behind him kept TTS Prospect at bay.
Warstic Citius began its rally with the very bottom of its lineup when Flynn Bryan, the No. 8 hitter, led off with a ringing double down the third base line and Tory Cooks, the No. 9 hitter, one-upped him with an RBI triple down the right field line. Cooks would score a few pitches later on a wild pitch to give Warstic Citius a 2-0 lead.
Michael Lombardi would cap the rally with a two-run single to left center, boosting the lead to 4-0. Aidan Redahan had singled, Tommy Tavares reached on an outfield error and both runners advanced into scoring position on a passed ball with Lombardi at the plate.
“When a pitcher is able to command his fastball in and out like Gerard did and mix in a changeup, he’s going to keep batters off balance,” said Warstic Citius coach Alex Cuas.
Warstic Citius tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the seventh courtesy of two walks and a pair of hit batsmen. Both runners would score when Christian Toledo stole third and the catcher’s throw got away. The left fielder then mishandled the ball and Redahan scored all the way from first base.
Redahan, Warstic Citius’ third baseman, had a big tournament at the plate and was named the Garden State Invitational Most Valuable Player. In the final, he singled, was hit by a pitch and scored two runs. The lefty-hitting Redahan lost a beautiful but single in the first inning when he was called out for stepping on the plate.
The team’s error-free championship game was marked but Tommy Tavares’ stellar play at shortstop and Redahan’s flawless effort at third base. The two infielders combined to record nine outs, including a 5-4-3 double play initiated by Redahan in the fourth.
It seemed every Warstic Citius fielder was on his toes all game. Right fielder Cesar Martinez very nearly threw out Robert Conklin at first base on a hard single to right in the fourth. Martinez unleashed a laser that forced Conklin to dig it out to first base. Two innings later, Martinez fearlessly chased down a high pop in foul territory, stopping in time to avoid slamming into the fence.
Toledo, Warstic Citius’ leadoff hitter, drew three walks in four trips to the plate and scored a run. Lombardi, the cleanup hitter, went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, drew a walk and knocked in two runs. Zack Liederman, the DH, singled, reached on a hit-by-pitch and was robbed of two more hits on outstanding plays by TTS Prospect shortstop Tyler Muscat. Muscat threw out Liederman from the edge of the outfield grass in the sixth inning and made a diving catch of a sinking liner in the seventh. Cooks singled in his second at bat to go 2-for-3.
“We’re finally gelling as a team,” said Cuas. “It took us awhile. It’s at the point of the season where we are ready to go. We are not tired. We’ve been aggressive on defense and on offense and we are making our opponents make adjustments.”
Cuas, by the way, pitched three years at Division 1 Towson University, which may explain the good fortune of the Warstic Citius pitching staff this summer. The coach’s high school career was remarkable. He went 18-1 with a 0.51 ERA and struck out 151 batters at Grand Street Campus in Brooklyn, leading his team to the PSAL Class A City Championship in 2012.
Tyler Galletti of TTS Prospect (6-1) was the hero of his team’s thrilling 6-5 semifinal victory over the Philadelphia Reds. Galletti went 4-for-4 with four RBI in the wild eight-inning affair decided by the California Tiebreaker. Galletti slapped a hard grounder over first base in the bottom of the eighth to score two runs and give his team the victory.