Baseball – SSN Pitcher of the Year: Luca Dalatri
This baseball season was the first in which Christian Brothers Academy was a literal man among boys as an 18-year-old pitcher playing high school baseball, but those who have followed the 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound right-hander during his four-year varsity career have seen Dalatri live up to the figurative end of the phrase much earlier than 2016.
High school athletes are supposed to be unpredictable. School and social life is expected to permeate the playing field from time to time and every now and again a student athlete has a bad day. Since the start of his sophomore year, not only has Dalatri not had a bad day on the mound, but each of his starts has been an exercise in consistency. Not just any consistency, but complete and consistent excellence.
For each of the last three seasons, Dalatri has been raising the bar for himself and after this, his senior season, there is a new bar for Shore Conference pitchers. For the third consecutive season, Dalatri is the Shore Sports Network Pitcher of the Year after completing what could very well be the greatest high school career any Shore Conference pitcher has ever had.
Other Shore Conference pitchers have posted more strikeouts, lower ERA’s and gone on to enjoy long Major League careers, but no Shore Conference body of work – not by Al Leiter, current Red Sox manager and Shore Regional alum John Farrell or recent No. 12 overall pick Jason Groome – has looked quite as staggering in its scope as the one Dalatri just finished producing.
In an era in which pitchers are protected far more than their predecessors from before the turn of the millennium, Dalatri still managed to be a workhorse who racked up complete-games, 60-plus inning seasons and exceedingly impressive numbers to match. In four varsity seasons, Dalatri racked up 249 2/3 innings, during which he pitched to a 0.67 earned-run average while striking out 370 and walking a mere 36.
With his final victory of his senior season, Dalatri capped ended his career with a 35-2 record, making him the Shore Conference’s all-time career wins leader, surpassing the previous record of 34 wins held by Toms River East right-hander and current Rutgers University pitching coach Casey Gaynor. Gaynor went 34-4 in four seasons with the Raiders.
Although Dalatri was a standout performer as a freshman with his 5-2 record and 1.25 ERA, he became the force that he will be remembered as during his sophomore season in 2014. Since the start of his sophomore year, Dalatri went 30-0 with a 0.57 ERA, 330 strikeouts and 23 walks in 210 1/3 innings – and average season of 10-0 with 110 strikeouts and 7.67 walks. He also won the prestigious Gatorade N.J. Player of the Year in each of his last two high school seasons.
Dalatri struck out 122 batters and walked only seven as a junior in 2015 and somehow improved on that season this year. Despite missing two starts because of a hamstring injury sustained in late April, Dalatri still logged 67 innings in 10 starts this season and won all 10. Prior to the injury, Dalatri struck out 52 while walking only two and allowing one earned run in 27 innings spanning four starts. In his four starts after the injury, Dalatri was even better – he struck out 46, did not walk or hit a batter and allowed just seven hits in 26 scoreless innings.
Luca Dalatri 2016 Game Log
|vs. Dunbar (Ky.)||W, 10-0||6||6||0||0||0||0||10|
|at Middletown North||W, 1-0||7||3||0||0||0||0||15|
|at Middletown South||W, 3-1||8||2||1||1||0||1||19|
|vs. Marlboro||W, 11-0||6||2||0||0||0||1||8|
|vs. Middletown South (MCT)||W, 3-0||7||1||0||0||0||0||11|
|vs. Red Bank Catholic (MCT)||W, 4-0||7||1||0||0||0||0||15|
|vs. Manalapan (SCT)||W, 2-0||7||2||0||0||0||0||14|
|vs. Middletown North (SCT)||W, 4-0||5||3||0||0||0||0||6|
|vs. Red Bank Catholic (SCT)||W, 5-3||7||7||3||3||1||2||10|
|vs. Middletown South (SCT)||W, 2-0||7||5||0||0||2||0||10|
If Dalatri’s final six starts of the season following the brief injury hiatus were not good enough on the performance alone, they were made even better because of the fact that each of the six was a tournament start. He returned to action by pitching a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts against Middletown South – the Class A North champion and No. 2 team in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10 – in the Monmouth County Tournament semifinals and followed that start up with a one-hit, 15-strikeout, zero-walk masterpiece against Red Bank Catholic in the championship game while pitching on three days of rest. Dalatri also blasted a big insurance RBI triple as CBA captured its third straight MCT title by beating the No. 4 ranked Caseys, 4-0.
After finishing off CBA’s three-peat in the MCT, Dalatri turned his sights to the Shore Conference Tournament. In the round of 16, he pitched another near-flawless game against Manalapan, limiting the Braves to just two baserunners on a couple of singles while striking out 14 and facing one batter over the minimum in a 2-0 CBA win. In that start, Dalatri reached a two-ball count just three times in 22 batters faced and threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of those 22 batters.
Dalatri once again came back on three days of rest in the quarterfinals against Middletown North and exited after five shutout innings with a 4-0 lead. He struck out six and walked none while allowing three hits in his shortest outing of the year.
Perhaps the lone shortcoming of Dalatri’s brilliant season was that his final two starts were very good while the previous four had been nearly flawless. In the SCT semifinal against Red Bank Catholic, the Caseys racked up three runs on seven hits against Dalatri and put the go-ahead run on first base in the top of the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and one out away from tying Gaynor for the wins record, Dalatri induced a game-ending ground ball out to shortstop Sal Rinaldi with the runners in motion on a 3-2 count.
In the seventh inning of that game, Dalatri issued as many walks (two) and allowed as many earned runs (two) as he had in his previous 59 innings. Despite allowing seven hits, walking two and hitting his first batter of the season, Dalatri struck out 10 and pitched his team into the championship game.
With a chance to end his season on a higher note while facing Middletown South for a third time, Dalatri blanked the Eagles on five hits and no walks with 10 strikeouts to deliver CBA its third consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championship.
Dalatri’s dominant season ended with him winning all 10 of his starts while striking out 118, walking four and allowing just four earned runs on 32 hits in 67 innings.
Over the last three seasons, Dalatri has produced a standout career on postseason games alone. He appeared in 18 postseason games with 16 starts spanning 115 1/3 innings, going 17-0 with one save, a 0.67 ERA, 74 hits allowed, 14 walks and 173 strikeouts. Within those numbers are five starts at FirstEnergy Park – home to the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Class-A affiliate of the Phillies. In those starts, Dalatri went 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA, 27 hits allowed, one walk and 55 strikeouts in 35 innings. He pitched CBA to victories in the SCT final in both 2014 and 2016 and the Monmouth County Tournament final in both 2015 and 2016.
Dalatri also helped CBA seal a 2015 NJSIAA Non-Public A championship, which gave the Colts the No. 1 ranking in the state and made them just the second Shore Conference team to ever win all five championships – division, county, conference, state sectional and overall group. He recorded a two-inning save in a 2-0 win over Bishop Eustace in the South Jersey Non-Public A final and pitched a four-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and one walk against previously unbeaten Don Bosco Prep in the Non-Public A final.
Over the past two seasons, Dalatri also turned himself into a feared hitter, mashing 19 doubles and 11 home runs while driving in 58 over the past two years.
After authoring one of the great careers in Shore Conference history – during which he shattered nearly every school record – Dalatri will continue his career at the University of North Carolina along with his battery-mate of the past four years, Brandon Martorano. The Colorado Rockies used their final draft pick to select Dalatri in the 40th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on June 10, but Dalatri will bet on himself and pitch for the Tar Heels for at least the next three seasons before he is eligible to be selected by a Major League Club again.
Based on his work over the past three seasons, it’s hard to imagine a safer bet.
Luca Dalatri Career Pitching Stats