Tournaments | Story | 7/18/2013

Burger and Aiello lead Tri-State

Sam Brazenas        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. – After having their first game of the playoffs delayed due to rain, Tri-State Arsenal Showcase I came out strong in their continuation game against Kentucky Baseball Club 16u Goins on Thursday.

Tri-State has played solid baseball so far in the WWBA 16u National Championship only losing one game during pool play, which was enough to advance them to the playoffs.

Pretty much everyone is playing well,” said head coach Jeff Mazzola. “We only have 9-10 position players so all the boys have contributed. We play as a team and we win as a team. Everyone has been doing their job doing (and) their part and that’s all I ask from them. We’re 7-1 right now. But obviously, that doesn’t matter until the next game. You’re only as good as your last game.”

Mazzola said John Aiello and Willie Burger are two names that stick out when he thinks of team leaders; however, he believes “there’s no one kid in particular, (and) they’ve all been playing well and leading by example.”

Aiello is a 6-foot-2 195-pound shortstop from Lansdale, Pa. He has been coming to the WWBA tournaments since 2010.

I love it,” added Aiello. “It’s the best tournament. We always play good competition and it’s really fun to come down here and see all the teams from around the country.”

Aiello, who is ranked No. 50 on Perfect Game’s High School Class of 2015 National Rankings, has held a .500 batting average at the plate so far this tournament.

I don’t really worry about the rankings,” explained Aiello. “I just try to play hard every game and help my team win. I’m just trying to get balls over the plate, it doesn’t matter what pitch. I try to hit a line drive up the middle, (which is) usually my approach. I’ve been getting good pitches luckily.”

Aiello is a 2015 graduate at Germantown Academy. He has verbally committed to play baseball at Wake Forrest after he graduates.

I was looking at a bunch of schools (and) I wanted to go to a small school with good academics,” added Aiello. “I just love everything about it. I love the campus, the coach is good, (and they have) a sweet field. It was just the right fit for me.”

Aiello’s goals mainly revolve around baseball, including furthering his career after college; however, he is very excited to go to Wake Forrest to play baseball while receiving a top-notch education.

I want to play professional baseball (one day),” said Aiello. “I’m just trying to do well every game. I’m really excited for college ball, that was my goal to start.”

Aiello has been trying to get his teammate, Burger, to go to Wake Forrest. Burger is looking at a number of different schools, and is still undecided.

I’ve been talking to Duke a lot,” explained Burger. “I really like them a lot. Johnny’s been riding me a lot to go to Wake Forrest with him. I’m pretty open to it. I’m going to wait and see. Both my parents are Duke grads so I’ve got a little pressure at home to go to Duke but they’re open to me finding the best fit for me.”

Burger, along with Aiello has been coming to the WWBA National Championships since 2010. He also attended the 2012 and 2013 Junior National Showcases.

It was awesome,” said Burger about the 2013 Junior National Showcase. “It was my second year at the Metrodome. It’s awesome. I’m a little bummed that they’re tearing it down. It’s just a great experience to play with the best players in the country. I love it. It’s my favorite event to go to and I can’t wait for the national next year.”

Burger has been doing very well in the 2013 WWBA 16u National Championship. Burger has been playing all over the field; at catcher, first base, third base and pitcher. Although he claims he’s “not much of a pitcher,” he has won two games on the mound while racking up 17 strikeouts over 12 innings.

He’s thrown two great outings for us, 2 complete games,” said Mazzola. “We were 5-1 and we needed to win that last game so he got a complete game giving up one run to get us unto the playoffs.”

I don’t like to pitch, but whatever gets my team to win,” added Burger. “I throw hard (but) sometimes I struggle with control. I haven’t really pitched much in my life. I like playing third. I’ve been playing behind the plate a lot lately. It’s coming around we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Burger also has been a “big hitter” this tournament. In the first round of playoffs he hit a clutch two-run homer that really busted open Tri-State’s offense.

I had been getting a little long on my swing last week, and (I’ve) just been trying to focus on staying short,” added Burger. “Finally I saw a ball well and stayed short and hit It pretty good.”

Both Burger and Aiello really enjoy playing for the Tri-State team. They’ve both been playing with Tri-State Arsenal since they began coming to Perfect Game events in 2010.

We’ve got a lot of guys who have played on this team,” said Burger. “We got a lot of guys who just play the game the right way and it’s fun to play with them. We’ve been doing pretty well but we’re not done yet.”

The Tri State Arsenal program provides travel baseball and softball programs for the Tri-State area (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware). The website says one of the goals of the Arsenal program is to provide an environment to enhance and encourage the development of skills and desires of players in respect to the games of baseball and softball. Dynamic Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is their most recent, and notable, alumni of the program.

While they repeatedly find themselves in the playoffs while playing at a high level in numerous tournaments at all age levels, unfortunately Tri-State Arsenal Showcase I saw their run in the 16u WWBA National Championship come to an end after a tough 6-1 loss against Evoshield Canes 16U on Thursday afternoon.

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