Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, June 21, 2014

USA Elite Baseball scholarship chasin'

Matt Rodriguez        
EMERSON, Ga. – USA Elite Baseball Red put on a hitting clinic Saturday morning during the 15u WWBA National Championship at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint, scoring nine runs off of 11 hits en route to a 9-0 win over CBA Copperheads Elite.

“We did exactly what we were supposed to do. We took care of business,” said USA Elite head coach Michael Capaldi. “We beat a team that we knew was gonna be competitive, but we knew we had a good chance of doing some things against them and we did that.”

Four players from USA Elite tallied multi-hit performances against the Copperheads, including Darion Jacoby, Daniel Alvarez Jr., Colby Hiddemen, and Joe Lancellotti. A 2017 high follow from Bensalem, Penn., Lancellotti showed scouts exactly what he’s got with the bat. He went 2-for-4, tagging a fastball over the left field fence for a solo home run and then almost duplicating that exact same at-bat when he one-hopped the fence for a double in his final plate appearance.

“Joe Lancellotti is just an absolute stud,” said Capaldi. “He comes to play everyday and he takes baseball pretty seriously.”

“The first at-bat I was feeling a little shaky,” said Lancellotti. “I took two pitches I wasn’t sure if they were strikes or not and then I ended up getting out on my front foot, so I knew I had to stay back during my next at-bat. He threw me a fastball and I stayed back and was able to hit it out over the left field fence.”

Lancellotti’s double came as part of a huge three-run sixth inning in which USA Elite recorded three extra-base hits, including two triples.

“It was good to have a good game, personally, but the team had a great game, which was really good to see,” Lancellotti said. “We started hitting and put a lot of runs on the board. Landon [Breon] was throwing great on the mound and got us a shutout. We knew if we scored we’d have the win. We’re in a good spot now in our bracket after the win.”

The win Saturday morning puts the team at 2-0 in the pool. USA Elite started their tournament with a very important opening win against a notoriously talented Elite Squad 15u Prime team, 7-5. In that game, Lancellotti traded the bat for the mound and showed off his arm. In an inning of relief work, he displayed a fastball that touched 88 mph (miles per hour) on the Perfect Game radar gun while sending two hitters down on strikes.

“Our pitching’s looking great so far,” said Lancellotti. Conor [Larkin] threw a great game yesterday and Landon threw a great game today. Our bats are here. Our team’s hitting. We’re doing everything we need to do right now.”

With a team earned-run average below 3.00 (2.92), an team batting average above .300 (.316), and an exceptional fielding percentage of .936 it would be hard for any team to beat USA Elite, who seems to be doing everything right.

“We’re here because we’re a talented team too,” said Capaldi about the talented field of teams in the 15u WWBA National Championship. “Yesterday, before the game when we knew we were playing a good team a gentleman said, ‘we have to bring our big boy pants because we’re playing against a good team’.”

Capaldi loves hearing compliments like that, especially about a team coming from the tri-state area, traditionally ruled by the Tri-State Arsenal program. His other obstacle when traveling south for large Perfect Game tournaments is often playing against teams from the warmer states where weather is rarely an issue that keeps them indoors. Capaldi just takes the general assumption that southern teams typically run the summer tournaments and uses it as motivation.

“We come down here expecting to win,” said Capaldi. “We know we’re a good team and there’s an expectation that they have to beat us and we don’t have to beat them and that’s what I try to instill in the guys and they live by that. We’re gonna be in every game that we play and we’re gonna do it respectfully and that’s what we like to do.”

The USA Elite Baseball program originally started as NorCal East around six years ago before becoming the Mid-Atlantic Canes and, most recently, Chandler Baseball, before becoming USA Elite Baseball this year.

“Hopefully we’re USA Elite for a long time,” said Capaldi. “It’s a program based on morals: playing the game the right way, acting the right way, and just carrying yourself a certain way and I think we do that pretty well and that’s what we’re all about. We like to have fun while we do it.”

This USA Elite Baseball Red team is made up of a roster full of kids from various cities in Pennsylvania and one from Bronx, New York in Alvarez Jr. They all share a common goal of playing baseball at the next level, whatever that may be.

“We’ve had probably one hundred or more players that have gone through our organization and become D-I players,” Capaldi said. “I’m here now to carry that on to these kids and that’s the attraction. There’s an expectation for them and we’re here for them to get D-I scholarships if it’s at all possible. If it’s not, then they’re gonna play college baseball somewhere and that’s our number one goal.”

Although these kids would all like to play baseball for a major college baseball program, these kids are far from being self-minded individuals. That, according to Capaldi, is what makes this team good.

“Our strength is our cohesiveness; we’re a team,” said Capaldi. “There’s not one guy above it and that’s what I preach and that’s what they understand. We’ve played a lot of tough tournaments and I think we’re here to win some games and move forward and our strength is we’re a team.”

“At the tournaments we get to bond and that’s helped because we’ve become so close and I think that helps us because it’s like playing with your family,” said Lancellotti. “We’re able to pick each other up and that’s one of our strengths.”

While Capaldi said dealing with failure is the toughest part about coaching a team of 15-year-olds, he hasn’t had to worry about that too much.

After a fast start to the 15u WWBA National Championship, Capaldi hopes his players will stay hot, as they prepare for their PG Super25 Northeast Super Regional and hope to avenge a heart breaking loss against Tri State Arsenal-Rizzo in the last Super25 event held in the northeast.

Win or lose, though, Capaldi reiterated the fact that his number one goal as a coach of the USA Elite Baseball organization is to get his players on Division I baseball teams. At the end of the day, that is what makes his job so rewarding.

“Having a college coach, in the middle of the game, come up to me and say he’s gonna call me after the game to talk about my players makes it all worth it.”

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