By Rich Bevensee
Aristotle may not have been referring to baseball when he was shooting the breeze with his friends in ancient Greece and mentioned that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but the Centercourt Young Guns 13U ballclub clearly exemplifies the great philosopher’s legendary maxim.
Over a three-day span, seven Centercourt pitchers combined to surrender just seven runs in six games, which included an 8-1 victory over the CK Cardinals in the 13U Blue championship game of the Youth World Series on Monday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
With Joe Weber and Mike Fogarty combining on a six-inning five-hitter in the final, Centercourt became the only team in the 13U bracket to go undefeated in six games.
Young Guns coach Rich Saitta named his entire seven-man pitching staff as the recipient of the Most Valuable Player award.
“There’s your guys. That’s who’s responsible,” said Siatta, pointing to his pitchers posing for a group picture after the game. “And we have two outstanding catchers, Kobe (Dancel) and C.J. (Farrace), and our defense did a tremendous job as well.
“I knew we had good pitching but did I expect this? Absolutely not. And when you play six games in four days, and you’re expected to play four games in one day, that’s a tremendous job by those guys.”
“All of us have our little niche but all of us are top notch. We all do our jobs,” said Julian Polo, one of the seven-man MVP staff.
The seven-man pitching staff that led Centercourt Young Guns to the title: from left, Joe Spurgin, Julian Polo, Joey Russell, C.J. Farrace, Joe Weber, and Mike Fogarty. In front, Kobe Dancel.
Indeed, Centercourt was 2-0 going into Monday and needed four more wins to clinch the title. The Young Guns won two more games to go unbeaten in pool play, then dispatched the Hayner Academy Barnstormers, 7-2, in the semifinals.
“In the morning, we had good energy and I told the team that’s gonna’ win it,” Polo said. “Everyone is tired in the morning and energy is it. Everyone came through and that’s how we roll.”
The title marked Centercourt’s third championship in four years with this particular group. Saitta’s Young Guns won a 10U and 11U title but came up short last season.
“We kind of missed it last year, so coming back and being able to do this with a new group, I can’t even describe it,” Saitta said. “Winning this again, here at Diamond Nation, is amazing.”
Weber got the start for the Young Guns against the Cardinals and pitched two innings, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with two strikeouts. Fogarty entered in the third with two men on and none out, and induced a fly out and a double play. He finished with four shutout innings, allowing one hit and two walks with one strikeout.
“Everyone played a part in this,” Weber said. “We thought we had good pitching but we didn’t know this was possible. I think this changes our expectations for the rest of the season.”
As Saitta said, the defense played a major role in the championship, especially in the final against the Cardinals. The Young Guns played clean, simple baseball in the infield, getting three force outs at second base. With Weber on the hill, he got an outfield assist from George Burdge IV to get a force out at second base.
Fogarty was the recipient of two sparkling defensive plays. Burdge made a head-first, diving catch in the fifth inning, and shortstop A.J. Aversano went head-long up the middle to stop a hard grounder and get the force out at second base.
“We tell our pitchers to rely on defense and that’s how we got here,” Saitta said. “Their mentality is that they always trust their defense, and all they have to do is throw strikes and that’s what they did.”
Of course none of this would be possible without offense, something Centercourt is certainly not lacking. The Young Guns seized control of the game with a five-run first inning and never looked back.
Burdge IV walked with the bases loaded for a 1-0 lead and the game’s quirkiest play followed. Farrace grounded to short for what appeared to be a golden opportunity for the Cards to turn a double play. But Fogarty, leaving second base, screened Cardinals shortstop Shane Panitch and the ball eventually squirted into the left-center field gap, allowing Farrace to churn into third with a three-run triple. Jake Umansky added an RBI groundout to complete the five-run burst.
Freddie Viole spoiled any shutout plans the Young Guns had with a fielder’s choice RBI in the top of the second, but that was the only run the Cardinals would push across.
Nick Stabile drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the second, then scored from second on a base hit by Fogarty for a 7-1 lead.
In the fourth Weber singled and eventually crossed on an infield throwing error on a Polo grounder to complete the scoring.
The CK Cardinals finished their long weekend 4-2. They went 3-1 in pool play by outscoring their opponents 27-11, then defeated Pride of the Diamond, 13-3, in the semifinals.