FORT MYERS, Fla. – Two teams met at jetBlue Park Sunday morning in an all-northeast matchup in the 14u Super25 National Championship to play in what seemed to be a showcase of some of the best northeast talent. In a game not lacking in great defensive highlights, impressive pitching, and solid hitting, it was the Voorhees, New Jersey-based Tri-State Arsenal 14u Red who came out on top over the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based All-Star Baseball Academy, 3-2.
“I knew it was gonna be a tough one because we played these guys in the Mid-Atlantic Regional finals back in Jersey and we know them very well,” said Tri-State head coach Bob DelVecchio. “They’re only across the bridge in the Philly area, so we’re practically neighbors. They battle, so we knew coming in how tough it would be. This team, they didn’t quit all year and I’m so proud.”
ASBA came out swinging the bats right away, sending seven of their players to the plate in the top of the first inning. A couple of walks, a fielding miscue, and a single off the bat of Davis Reardon led to a 2-0 start for the team from Pennsylvania.
The boys from West Chester came into the game with heavy momentum after winning a thrilling extra-inning semifinal matchup, 3-2, against the SWFL Canes Elite to put them in the national title game. It was evident ASBA’s confidence was high and momentum was in their grasp.
ASBA carried that momentum into the bottom of the third when Tri-State Arsenal came charging back.
Shortstop Tim Dezzi started the comeback with a hard ground ball to left field for a leadoff single. Two batters later, Zachary Miller connected for a one-hop double off the replica Green Monster in left-center field to score Dezzi from first base and inch a run closer to tying the ballgame.
After Brian Nicolas followed with a walk, Tyler Ras singled single to short center field to move the runners up a base and load them for Anthony Piccolino. Piccolino capitalized on the bases loaded opportunity with a single over the third baseman to knot the game at two runs apiece.
The Arsenal loaded the bases once again in the following inning with none out and scored the go-ahead run thanks to a sacrifice fly off the big bat of Dezzi. One was all they could get, though, as ASBA did an exceptional job keeping the inning from getting out of hand.
Tri-State cruised through the lineup with 1-2-3 fifth and sixth inning until, with two outs in the seventh, ASBA threatened, getting two runners on base via a walk and a hit by pitch. Piccolino was able to avoid any further trouble and got the following hitter to ground into a fielder’s choice at third base, where a collision between the third baseman and the baserunner ended the ballgame.
“It’s a dream come true,” said DelVecchio. “These kids are fighters. They kept plugging away, plugging away. It’s been a long road. A lot of people said we couldn’t do it. We came down here with just 11 guys and we had to really regulate our pitching and everything.”
Piccolino had no problem going the distance in the championship game, throwing just 91 pitches to record the seven-inning complete game. He surrendered four hits and four walks and allowed just two unearned runs, while collecting three strikeouts and earning the win from the hill. He also put together a multi-hit effort from the top of the lineup, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and an RBI. The 5-foot-11 left-handed hurler finished the tournament 8-for-19 (.421 batting average) and picked up four RBI. He also made a relief appearance to give him two wins on the mound, without giving up an earned run.
Tri-State enjoyed a 7-0-1 record in the tournament, outscoring its opponents 44-21 in the eight games and using back-to-back wins over the Tennessee Knights to advance to the championship game, including a walk-off thriller in yesterday’s 6-5 semifinal matchup.
The Arsenal were able to rally from two down with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and scored the game-winning run on a single to left field off the bat of none other than Piccolino.
It was shortstop Tim Dezzi who carried the big stick for Tri-State all week, finishing with an incredible .556 batting average (15-for-27) with a team-leading five doubles. He also tallied six RBI and a team-leading seven runs, pacing the offense in multiple categories.
“I don’t know what else to say, I’m just so proud of these guys,” DelVecchio said. “I know my boss, Joe Barth, is proud. They never quit. It’s been a great experience. What a great experience to come to a park like this. Perfect Game runs a great tournament. It’s just a great experience coming down here. I suggest everybody come down here, it’s just incredible.”
DelVecchio is proud of what ASBA and Tri-State were able to accomplish, coming down to Florida, a state known for its high level of baseball, and advancing to the championship out of the northeast. He said it shows a lot about the quality of baseball you can find in their region, as well.
“We’re a lot tougher and Bob and Joe Barth demand a lot,” said DelVecchio. “We work hard and we’re training all year around.”
It was inevitable, no matter who came out on top in the 14u National Championship; the inaugural 14u Super25 trophy was heading to the northeast. It will now rest in Voorhees, N.J. with the Tri-State Arsenal.