BAYVILLE – When Central Regional head baseball coach John Scran lifted University of Alabama recruit and senior right-hander Andrew DiPiazza from Thursday’s game against Shore Conference Class B South division rival Jackson Liberty with two out in the top of the fifth inning and his team leading by three runs, it set off a chain-reaction of events that initially appeared to doom the Golden Eagles.

In the end, it proved that Central is much more than just a one-man team.

The Golden Eagles – ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – overcame a short outing by DiPiazza, a Jackson Liberty comeback, and an injury to a key player to walk off with a 4-3, season-opening win over the No. 8 Lions in nine innings.

Central senior Andrew DiPiazza allowed three hits and struck out seven batters before being pulled after 4 2/3 innings. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“If they (Jackson Liberty) had the approach to wait until I came out of the game (to score runs), that’s a terrible approach because they’re setting themselves up for failure,” DiPiazza said. “If they're thinking they’re just going to be teeing off on our other pitchers, they’re not going to be too happy.  It’s not just me here. We’ve got other guys on this team.”

Senior second baseman Dan Viscel drew a 12-pitch walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to end the game in his second at-bat of the day after coming off the bench as DiPiazza’s substitute in the batting order. He singled in his first at-bat in the bottom of the seventh and then fouled off six pitches with a full count before looking at a pitch just off the outside corner from Jackson Liberty senior right-hander Dan Naif.

“I knew he was throwing fastballs in that situation,” Viscel said. “I knew the pressure was more on him than it was on me. He had one out and the bases loaded in a 3-2 count. I know he’s a good pitcher, but I don’t think him or his coach want to throw a slider in that situation. Plus, I was hogging the plate. I was right up on the plate, because if it was coming in, I was wearing it.”

Junior Anthony Arneth earned his first career win by pitching a scoreless ninth, long after DiPiazza exited after coasting through 14 outs. The 6’7” Central ace allowed three hits, struck out seven and did not issue a walk while throwing a manageable 71 pitches. With Central leading 3-0, he struck out Jackson Liberty second baseman Dylan Millemann for the second out of the fifth with Lions first baseman Howard Taylor on second. Scran, who visited the mound prior to Millemann’s at-bat, then came out to remove him in favor of junior starting second baseman Jake Dominguez.

“We’re just trying to plan for the rest of the year and manage it the correct way,” DiPiazza said. “The plan was exactly how it went: throw three or four innings, get our other pitchers in there and play ball. We played hard and it went exactly how we planned it.”

“We have a plan for him, laid out by me and our pitching coach, Dennis Kopin, where we just want to make sure we keep him fresh for the whole year and not just for the beginning of the year,” Scran said. “We want him to be peaking at the right time, which is May. That’s when we need him to be peaking.

“He understands. We’ve talked about the plan and he understands. It’s not a pitch count plan. It’s more about making sure the arm slot is right, and he’s peaking at the right time. There is no pitch count rule like, ‘Hey, we’re stopping at this number.’ It’s just making sure when we feel it’s enough and our other guys are ready to do the job, we pull him out.”

Andrew DiPiazza strikes out Sofield from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

The plan referenced by Scran and DiPiazza is a far cry from the way Central used its ace at the beginning of his junior year in 2013, when he shredded B South lineups through the first month of the season. DiPiazza pitched seven innings in each of his first four starts in 2013 and pitched two in his third only because Central jumped out to a big lead in the second inning. After the two-inning start, he pitched eight innings in each of his next two starts and pitched no fewer than six in any of his final three.

In addition to being a year away from pitching in the Southeastern Conference, DiPiazza is also being scrutinized by scouts from Major League organizations in anticipation of June’s First-Year Player Draft. Scouts from the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds were among those on hand to evaluate DiPiazza, who was throwing his fastball between 86 and 90 miles per hour Thursday.

“It’s a different animal now,” Scran said. “We’re taking about a kid who has a chance to be a high draft pick. Last year, we really didn’t know what we had. It’s not so much about last year vs. this year as it is about keeping this player healthy and preparing him to peak when he needs to peak.”

DiPiazza said Alabama has nothing to do with the limited usage early in the season, even though he was not committed to any collegiate program during last season, when he was used freely. He committed to Boston College over the summer of 2012, but reopened his recruitment shortly before the season began.

“We’re just trying to plan ahead,” DiPiazza said. “I could have pitched longer today. Alabama doesn’t have anything to do with the plan. I haven’t talked to them about it. I’m just trying to win games and give some opportunities to my teammates early in the year. It’s about more than just me.”

DiPiazza also alluded to a recent bout with bronchitis that set in five days ago, but he said it did not affect him in the game.

Upon DiPiazza’s departure, Dominguez walked No. 9 hitter and third baseman Ryan Van Wyckle to bring the tying run to the plate. Senior leadoff hitter and shortstop James Sofield belted a fastball from Dominguez into the gap in left-center, where Central left fielder Javon Hardy and center fielder Rich Galati collided at full speed. Both remained on the ground while the ball rolled toward the fence, allowing Sofield to easily round the bases with a game-tying, three-run, inside-the-park home run that erased the lead.

Hardy remained in the game, but Galati left the game as part of concussion protocol. Scran said Galati was heading to the hospital for a precautionary exam.

Central players and coaches check on senior Rich Galati (face down), who lay shaken up after a collision in the outfield. Galati walked off under his own power. (Photo by Matt Manley)

The home run also hung an earned run on DiPiazza, which gives him a 1.50 earned-run average to start the season. Last year, DiPiazza’s season ERA was never higher than 1.00 at the completion of any game.

After the three-run Jackson Liberty fifth, both bullpens shut down the opposing offense for the better part of three innings. Dominguez settled down to pitch three scoreless innings with one hit allowed after the end of the fifth, while Naif came on in relief of starter Dan Serreino, a Seton Hall recruit, and rolled through three innings of work before running into trouble in the ninth.

Before the ninth inning, Naif had worked three scoreless innings, allowing only two hits while throwing 21 of 24 pitches for strikes. Central finally waited out the sidearm hurler in the ninth, with Arneth and senior third baseman Frank Rose lining consecutive one-out singles and senior right fielder Christian Bearden working a five-pitch walk.

Viscel then worked his 12-pitch walk to plate freshman Mike Bickford, courtesy running for the pitcher, Arneth.

All three players in that previous sentence started Thursday’s game on the bench. After Hardy shifted from left to center field, Arneth went to left and replaced Galati in the batting order. Junior Matt Ehrnhardt came in to play second base with Dominguez on the mound and was replaced when DiPiazza re-entered to take his at-bat in the fifth inning. Viscel came on to play second base in the top of the sixth inning.

“The plan all along was to use Viscel as a replacement for Andrew,” Scran said of the senior, who played in the program as a freshman, but elected not to play in either of the last two seasons before returning for his final year. “We were going to go with a defensive-oriented guy to put at second base when we made the move, then we’d re-enter Andrew to hit in his spot, then we’d go to Danny for the rest of the game. We feel good about him swinging the bat and he can handle second base too, so we felt like we weren’t missing anything with him out there.”

Dan Viscel single in the 7th from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

The No. 1 and 4 spots in the Central order turned out to be the source of most of the Golden Eagles’ offense. Arneth and Galati combined to go 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored (including Bickford’s run as a courtesy runner) in the leadoff spot while DiPiazza and Viscel combined to go 3-for-4 with double, walk and two RBI out of the clean-up spot.

Bearden also went 2-for-3 with two walks out of the No. 3 spot. Although the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 spots accounted for seven of Central’s eight hits and four of its six walks, five players had a hand in that production.

“We have a solid team out there without Andrew,” Scran said. “When Andrew’s out there, obviously we become a better team. When we have those other kids on the mound, we’re still a solid team that makes the plays in the field. As long as you don’t give away outs, you’re going to be a good ball club.”

Central opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI double by DiPiazza off the right-center field fence to score Rose, who reached on a walk and moved to second on a single by Bearden. The Golden Eagles scored two more thanks to Galati, who ripped a two-out RBI single into center field to score Hardy and scored on a stolen base and two ensuing errors.

Andrew DiPiazza RBI double from All Shore Media on Vimeo.

Galati swiped second base and the throw from Jackson Liberty catcher Joel Rivera bounced off Galati’s helmet and out toward left field. Galati advanced to third, and when the throw from Jackson Memorial left fielder Kenny Pommerante got past Van Wyckle at third, Galati jumped up and sprinted toward home, and when Van Wyckle’s throw to Rivera at the plate beat Galati be several steps, the senior center fielder dislodged the ball from Rivera’s glove with his feet-first slide. The umpire initially called Galati out, but upon noticing the ball on the ground, correctly changed his call.

“In a game like this, when it comes down to being aggressive or playing it safe, we’re going to lean to the side of being aggressive,” Scran said. “We want to be an aggressive club and it worked in our favor. Very bizarre, but it worked in our favor.”

 

Box Score

Central 4, Jackson Liberty 3 (9 Innings)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Jackson Liberty (0-2, 0-2)

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

3

5

2

Central (1-0, 1-0)

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

4

8

2

 

Jackson Liberty

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

James Sofield, SS

3

1

1

3

0

1

Kyle Tavaska, CF

4

0

0

0

0

0

Dan Naif, 1B-P

3

0

1

0

1

1

Joe Santanello, DH

3

0

1

0

0

1

-- Kenny Pommerente, LF

0

0

0

0

0

0

-- Matt Pinto, PR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Joel Rivera, C

4

0

1

0

0

1

-- Matt Pinto, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Howard Taylor, RF-1B

4

1

1

0

0

2

Dan Serreino, P-RF

4

0

0

0

0

3

Dylan Millemann, 2B

4

0

0

0

0

2

Kyle Van Wickle, 3B

3

1

0

0

1

0

Totals

32

3

5

3

3

11

HR: Sofield (5th inning, 2 on, 2 out)
GIDP: Taylor
SB: Taylor

Central

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Rich Galati, CF

3

1

1

1

0

0

--Anthony Arneth, LF-P

2

1

1

0

0

0

--Mike Bickford, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Frank Rose, 3B

4

1

1

0

1

2

Christian Bearden, RF

3

0

2

0

2

0

--Matt Aires, PR

0

0

0

0

0

0

DiPiazza, P

3

0

2

1

0

0

--Joe Firetto, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

--Matt Ehrnhardt, 2B

0

0

0

0

0

0

--Dan Viscel, 2B

1

0

1

1

1

0

Marquis Drumright, SS

3

0

0

0

0

2

Jake Dominguez, 2B-P-LF

4

0

0

0

0

0

Javon Hardy, LF-CF

3

1

0

0

1

1

Kenny Beyrouty, C

3

0

0

0

1

2

--Anthony Arneth, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

John Forrester, 1B

3

0

0

0

0

0

--Ryan Paul, PH

1

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

33

4

8

3

6

7

2B: DiPiazza
SB: Hardy, Galati
Outfield Assist: Arneth

 

Jackson Liberty

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Dan Serreino

5.0

4

3

2

4

4

0

Dan Naif (L, 0-1)

3.1

4

1

1

2

3

0

 

Central

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Andrew DiPiazza

4.2

3

1

1

0

7

0

Jake Dominguez

3.1

2

2

2

2

3

1

Anthony Arneth (W, 1-0)

1.0

0

0

0

0

1

0

 

Hit by Pitch: Drumright (by Serreino), Sofield (by Dominguez), Santonello (by Dominguez)
Pitches-Strikes: Serreino 87-52, Naif 51-37, DiPiazza 71-48, Dominguez 44-26, Arneth 12-7
Groundouts-Flyouts: Serreino 7-1, Naif 5-1, DiPiazza 4-2, Dominguez 3-1, Arneth 1-0