By Will Harrigan
No team came into the August Showdown Diamond Nation this weekend with more bluster and bravado than Five Star NY 17U.
With the name “Mafia” in script across their jerseys, Five Star is, in some ways, a travel baseball version of the famed “The U” generation of Miami Hurricanes football: They cause a raucous with their opponents, play with a mercurial passion, and at the end of the day, win.
So it went that way on Sunday night, as the Five Star Mafia crew withstood a serious comeback attempt by the PS2 Athletics to take the 18U Red Division title at Diamond Nation, 6-4. In going a perfect 5-0, Five Star outscored its opponents 22-10. The Athletics wrapped up their weekend at 4-1 with the defeat.
The MVP honors went to Mark Yorio, Five Star’s crafty left-hander who won the title game in his last ever travel ball contest. Yorio will be off to Lycoming College in Pennsylvania in two weeks, where he will begin his college career.
Yorio was terrific in his swan song, tossing five-plus innings of no-hit ball. Four walks translated to two earned runs in an otherwise brilliant performance that only included one strikeout.
“I know what I am as a pitcher. I’m not going to overpower anyone. But I know how to mix my pitches and my leg kick,” said Yorio, a 5-7 southpaw who finished off his high school career at Carmel (N.Y.) High in the spring. “I think alternating between my side step and big leg kick threw them off tonight.”
The key blast for the winners came off the bat of Poly Prep product Taiowa Costello, who launched a bases clearing, two-out triple as part of a four-run fourth inning to turn a one-run lead into a commanding 6-1 edge.
Vincent Fusco and Jeylem Sepulveda each walked to start the inning, and after two recorded outs, tenth batter Anthony Jaeschke worked a full count free pass to juice the bases as the order flipped back up top to Costello.
Costello would come around for his team’s sixth and final run shortly thereafter, as a wayward pitch that found its way to the backstop allowed him to cross home plate.
PS2 Athletics – chock full of Bergen County ball players – put up three in the sixth and final inning after Five Star ran into some control issues. Rising Indian Hills senior Gavin Enright singled in a pair of runs, and St. Mary’s of Rutherford product Xavier Arana launched a sacrifice fly to drive in a third run.
But Five Star would eventually get out of the jam, and the time limit would run out as the champions were hitting, setting off a big celebration.
“This is who we are as a team every tournament,” Yorio said of his team’s mercurial nature. “Sometimes it gets negative, but it’s all love amongst our guys. We take pride in it.”
Enright hit a sacrifice fly in the first to give PS2 Athletics a short-lived early lead, but an RBI double by Freddy Heymach leveled things up at 1-1 in the bottom of the inning.
Heymach would score on a wild pitch to give Five Star a lead it would ultimately not surrender.