By Bob Behre
Throwing baseballs to home plate is all about getting outs and, though he wasn’t lighting up the radar gun on Sunday night, Christian DiOrio was doing just that and making life easy on his defense.
DiOrio pitched a five-inning shutout in scattering five hits, striking out six and walking two as the Hudson Valley Bulldogs defeated Team DeMarini Intensity Baseball, 8-0, in the 16U White Bracket Mid-Summer Classic championship game at Diamond Nation in Flemington, N.J.
“Because Christian changes speeds so well and commands three pitches he’s able to keep hitters off balance,” said Bulldogs coach Rich Lepere. “He definitely did that tonight.”
DiOrio escaped trouble in the first inning after giving up a pair of two-out hits and permitted just three more hits from there.
“My fastball felt good and I was able to locate it well,” said DiOrio. “And my curveball was working pretty good, too.”
DiOrio, a 6-1, 180-pound rising junior at Marlboro (N.Y.) High School, stranded a runner on second base in the both the second and third innings, one with an inning-ending strikeout the other on a flyout. He induced eight flyouts to go with his six strikeouts, accounting for 14 of Intensity Baseball’s 15 outs.
The Bulldogs (5-0) broke the game open with a five-run bottom of the third inning that staked the New York team to a 6-0 lead. DiOrio, who was named the White Bracket Most Valuable Player, doubled home a run in the middle of the third inning rally. DiOrio pitched nine innings in the tournament and did not allow a run.
Nick Lepere and Josh Hernandez also had RBI singles in the third inning rally. DiOrio’s courtesy runner Joe Coppolla stole home on the back end of a double steal and Kyle Caccamise, who had singled, scored on an infield throwing error. Tim Curtin (2-for-2), the No. 10 hitter, ignited the rally with a leadoff single to right field. R.J. Kruse had an infield single and Eric Grzchowski drew a walk in the outburst.
The Bulldogs struck for the game’s first run in the bottom of the first. Lepore drew a one-out walk, advanced to second in a wild pitch and charged home from second when Krause’s shot to the right side deflected off the glove of a diving Intensity Baseball second baseman Luke DeVito and rolled into center field.
Intensity Baseball’s Kevin Ritz beat out a deep grounder to third base with two outs in the top of the first and moved to third when Kyle Rosica lashed a shot down the left field line for double. Ritz would have likely scored but Rosica’s shot bounced over the left field fence for a grounds rule double. With John Albrecht at the plate, a DiOrio pitch got away from catcher Hernandez, but Hernandez chased it down and tossed it back to DiOrio at the plate, who tagged Ritz for the third out.
Jake DiLeo singled with two outs in the second and stole second but DiOrio struck out the next batter to end the inning. Ezra Caspi singled with two outs in the third and stole second but DiOrio induced a flyout to center field to end the threat. DiOrio walked two Intensity batters around two outs in the fourth, but induced a flyout to right field to get out of trouble.
Ahead 6-0 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Bulldogs went about clinching the victory via the eight-run mercy rule.
Kruse (3-for-3, 2 runs) started the winning rally with a double to left field. He moved to third on a wild pitch before DiOrio drew a walk. Coppolla stole second with Hernandez at the plate, now in position to end the game with a single. Hernandez did single to right field to score Kruse but Coppolla was held up at third. Hernandez got caught in a rundown between first and second as Coppolla creeped halfway down the third base line. The throw then came home and the catcher, in turn, fired to third attempting to get Coppolla. But the throw was wild, allowing Coppolla to score the winning run.
“We really hit well this tournament,” said coach Lepere, “and we scored a lot of runs. Timely hitting was the key for us.”
The Bulldogs mashed for 11 hits in the championship game and received contributions from throughout their lineup. Seven of the team’s 10 batters reached base, six of them had at least one hit and five scored at least one run.
Caccamise went 2-for-3, Lepore was 1-for-3 with a walk and scored twice and Hernandez went 3-for-3 and drove in two runs for Hudson Valley. The Bulldogs outscored their tournament opponents 45-7. Intensity Baseball (3-2) held a 25-10 runs advantage on its opponents.
NOTE: We meet a lot of good people who come through Diamond Nation from various parts of the northeast, southeast, west and even Canada. Bulldogs coach Rich Lepere is one of those. Rich is a high school physical education teacher and former high school baseball coach at Washingtonville (N.Y.) High School.