RCBC Ghost 15U National first baseman Anthony Garofalo takes in throw for an out.
By Sean Reilly
Nicholas Zarski is an admittedly streaky pitcher for the Richmond County Baseball Club 15U Nationals.
“When I’m on, I’m on,” he said. “I’m streaky, but when I’m on, I can be good.”
It usually doesn’t take long for the right-hander to figure out if he’s got his good stuff. And on Friday afternoon at Diamond Nation, the rising junior from St. Joseph By The Sea High School knew right away.
Zarski struck out the first two Bethpage Eagles batters, and got the third to pop out to shortstop.
“I knew after the first batter,” he said.
Zarski wound up throwing a 90-pitch, seven-inning shutout, with nine strikeouts, one walk, and nine more outs on ground balls, as the RCBC Ghost 15U Nationals, who are playing up a level in age, opened at the 16U Summer Finale Tournament with a 6-0 triumph in Flemington.
Zarski, the third batter in the RCBC lineup, also had an important at-bat when his team scored four runs with two out in the third inning for a 4-0 lead.
“We’re playing up, but we’re a good team and can compete with anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t change how I pitch. I try to attack hitters no matter who I’m facing.”
Zarski allowed one hit through the first three innings, but the Nationals were also limited to one single by Bethpage starter Justin Pagan over the first two.
Things changed when RCBC sent the bottom of its order up to begin the bottom of the third. Serge Gervais walked and stole second, and Michael Grippo walked on a full count, which became a recurring theme in the inning.
Leadoff batter Michael Uccio flew out to right field on a full count, with the runners staying put. The next batter struck out.
Zarski was up next, and he worked out a full-count walk to load the bases.
“We were staying patient, fouling off pitches and letting balls go by,” he said.
Cleanup man Christian Gonzalez was the next hitter. He not only took the count full, he fouled off several two-strike pitches in doing so.
Gonzalez then smacked a two-run single to center field for a 2-0 lead.
Bethpage Eagles third baseman Liam Gorney makes long cross-diamond throw for an out.
“I was just trying to make solid contact up the middle,” Gonzalez said. “I was hunting for a fastball the whole time, and I got it.”
Anthony Garofalo was up next, and reached on an error that scored Zarski for a 3-0 score. With runners now at first and third, a double steal brought in Gonzalez with the fourth run.
Zarski continued to pitch well, and his team added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Richie Hopes and Randy Rivera both walked with one out, and a combination of a balk, wild pitch and stolen base put them on second and third for Robert Cruz, who responded with a two-run single to center.
The only remaining drama was whether Zarski could finish with a complete game shutout.
A single and two groundouts put a Bethpage runner on third with two out in the seventh, but a ground out to second base ended the game.
“My curveball was definitely working great for me,” Zarski said. “It was my strikeout pitch. I was attacking, trying to throw strikes down the middle. I have a great defense, and if they put the ball in play, I can count on them to get outs. My fastball, slider and changeup were also working.”
The RCBC Ghost 15U Nationals will continue pool play against the CJ Phillies (0-0-1) on Saturday. Bethpage will seek a bounce back against Fairless Hills Steel on Saturday.