Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, July 12, 2012

Diamond Devils make bracket play

Matthew Stokes        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. – The Diamond Devils 17u Black (6-1) saw its six-game undefeated steak end as it lost 9-2 to Bandits Baseball (3-4) in a Wednesday afternoon Pool D matchup at the 2012 WWBA 17u National Championship.

Tied with the Diamond Devils at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Bandits plated six runs to break open the game, keyed by a bases-loaded walk and two run-scoring base hits.

In spite of the loss, the Diamond Devils entered the day having already clinched a spot in the tournament’s playoffs by virtue of winning their pool.

The Diamond Devils’ typical starting catcher, Nick Ciuffo (2013, Lexington H.S., S.C.), took a day off from catching and instead held down the third spot in the batting lineup as a designated hitter.

Ciuffo, who committed to University of South Carolina as a freshman at Wando High School in Dec. 2009, drove in the game’s first run in the opening frame with a RBI groundout to second base. He even stole second base in the fourth.

I think that was my second career stolen base,” said Cuiffo after the game. “I’m not really a speed demon.”

Ciuffo, a member of the Diamond Devils program since the summer of 2009, hails from Charleston, S.C., where the organization’s base of operations is located.

If you look back at the alumni who have come through this program...it’s, in my opinion, by far the best travel team in South Carolina and one of the best in the country,” said Perfect Game’s number 14-ranked prospect in the high school class of 2013. “And the coaching’s great. There’s four-five coaches on each team, and you get specific teaching with everything you do.”

The six-foot-one, 195-pound backstop attended Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, S.C., for his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Lexington High School for this past season. While at Wando, he pledged to South Carolina before ever appearing in a high school game.

I feel like it’s the best program in college baseball right now,” said Ciuffo, who also strongly considered Auburn University. “The program there is just awesome.”

Named to Perfect Game’s preseason 2012 Underclass First Team, Ciuffo said his summer has been jam-packed to say the least.

I guess it started a week after school got out at the end of May,” said Cuiffo of his travel ball season. “I played a couple of weekends with the Daimond Devils and then I was off to the Metrodome for the Perfect Game National Showcase.”

While in Minneapolis, Minn., in June, Ciuffo stood out defensively, recording a 1.83-second pop time and firing an 82-mph throw down to second in drills.

“(The) Perfect Game National was definitely one of my favorite things that I’ve done,” Ciuffo said. “And then I went to the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in North Carolina, and got selected for the 40-man trials team. Then when I returned to South Carolina, I was home for about three days and then I came to Georgia.”

John Rhodes, the Diamonds Devils’ founder and president in addition to the head coach of the Diamond Devils 17u Black, was quick and to the point when asked about Ciuffo.

Good catcher. Good arm,” said Rhodes after the Diamond Devils’ loss. “He understands the game. Swings the bat pretty well too.”

The Diamond Devils catcher sounded optimistic about the team’s chances heading into bracket play on Wednesday night.

You know there’s teams here that have eight or nine SEC or ACC commitments or the six-foot-two, 215-pound guys who are going to hit the ball 500 feet,” Ciuffo explained. “But we’ve got a real good nucleus I guess you could say.

"We’re a team. We play together and hang out all the time. And I feel like that’s what’s going to help us to be successful. We’re a team that’s here to win the whole thing.”

When asked about his goals for between now and June 2013, Ciuffo made it very clear what he will be shooting for.

Just to get better every day. That’s all you can really ask for,” Ciuffo said. “I’d like to put myself in a situation where I’ve gotten good enough to say I can be a first round draft pick. I feel like that’s everybody’s goal.”

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