Kieffer Goss of Dirty Boyz Lidetka Trucking( Hamilton West) collides with Hamilton Spartans (Steinert) catcher Gio Sciarotta on a play at the plate during the “Last Dance” baseball tournament. Photo by Michael A. Sabo.
By Rich Fisher
July 15: An army private couldn’t follow orders any better than Mike Nielsen did.
“Coach (Jim) Maher came up to me and said to put something hard on the ground up the middle,” said Nielsen, who did exactly that. He plated Danilo Perdomo with the winning run to give Dirty Boyz Liedtka Trucking (Hamilton West) a 5-4 win over the Hamilton Spartans (Steinert) in the Last Dance Bordentown/Trenton Region semifinal tonight.
Nielsen’s hit came in the bottom of the sixth at Arm & Hammer Park, and puts the Boyz in the region final against the NJ Tigers (Trenton Catholic), 6 p.m. Thursday night back at the Thunder’s home.
“We’ve been waiting to play them for years and we never got a shot,” Nielsen said. “We’ve been asking our coach if we could play them and we just never could. Now we finally got our chance and we’re ready.”
Photo Gallery Dirty Boyz (Hamilton West) vs. Hamilton Spartans (Steinert)
“We couldn’t find a mutual dates the past few years to get an out of conference game,” Dirty Boyz coach Mike “Mo” Moceri said. “Our guys were asking to play them, being very close to us, so it should be a good night.”
Tonight was a good night for any hard core baseball fan, as it was another in a long line of classic Hamilton-Steinert games, although this one went under an alias since teams are not affiliated to the NJSIAA. And the game was played in front of a social distancing-sold out crowd.
“It’s insane we’re back playing again, and now we’re playing on one of the best fields on the East Coast,” Perdomo said. “It’s just an amazing feeling. Nothing better than this.”
There was nothing better for Liedtka than when Perdomo drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth. The Spartans had the momentum after scoring three in the fifth to tie the game at 4-4, but a leadoff walk is always ominous late in a tie game.
Tyler Solymosi sacrificed Perdomo to second, and Nielsen then smoked an absolute bullet straight at shortstop CJ Pittaro. The ball took a hop on Pittaro at the last second and bounced off his chest into centerfield, allowing Perdomo to score on the bad-hop single.
“I trusted Nielsen, he got the job done,” Perdomo said. “I actually didn’t see it behind me but Mo said anything hit on the ground, get to third immediately. I thought Pittaro was going to throw to third but he didn’t, luckily.”
David Zamora, who didn’t pitch all last year after hurting himself against Steinert, made a triumphant return by throwing a clean seventh inning to save it for Nick Diaz.
“He did great,” Nielsen said. “It was good to see him back. It was great.”
“Clutch,” Perdomo said. “That’s all we needed from him. I’ve been playing with David since he was nine, he’s always been the star of the team and now he got the job done.”
Zamora fell behind 3-1 to the first batter he faced before throwing six straight strikes for two strikeouts. He ended it on a fly ball to right that Nate Rodriguez – Thursday’s starting pitcher – made a nice play on.
“David doesn’t like to come in with guys on, he likes to start the inning,” Moceri said. “I told him ‘Go in there and throw strikes.’ His stuff is good enough to get anybody out. Sometimes he’ll overthrow, as you saw in the first couple pitches. But he settled in, got his breaking ball over.”
Both starters did solid jobs as Diaz and Tommy Gater each went six innings.
The Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the first when Jordan Nitti singled and eventually scored on Joey Gmitter’s single. The Boyz bounced right back in the bottom of the inning when Kiefer Goss singled and stole his fifth base in two games before scoring on Rodriguez’s single. Perdomo followed with an RBI double to make it 2-1.
Liedtka got another in the second when Nielsen doubled and scored on Connor Kasa’s single, and another in the third on Tyler Solymosi’s run-scoring double.
At that point Diaz – the Hornets ace last spring – appeared locked in. After allowing Gio Sciarrotta’s leadoff single in the second, he got a double play and retired eight straight batters.
Gater finally found a groove and struck out the side in the fourth, which seemed to inspire Hamilton. Sciarrotta and Tyler Nielsen singled to lead off the fifth and both advanced on Mason Walczak’s sacrifice. Nitti delivered an RBI single and Sangillo slammed a two-run single to tie it. Sangillo reached third with two outs before Diaz ended it with a strikeout.
The hurler got through the top of the sixth, allowing the Boyz to construct their winning rally.
“I don’t really know what happened to Nick in that inning,” Moceri said. “I think he was just leaving the ball up a little bit. He may have gotten a little tired. He’s been throwing for about three weeks.
“We had him on an 85 pitch count. He didn’t want to come out, I didn’t think he was gonna want to come out. He begged and begged but the kid’s got a career pitching on the mound (in college). I wasn’t gonna put him in jeopardy so we were taking him out after that inning.
“You had two great arms on the mound, two strike throwers, not overpowering. Gater was good all game. We just got some good swings. We said we were gonna be aggressive. He’s good around the plate, that’s the kind of pitcher he was and we got a couple lucky bounces here and there, and here we are. We grinded it out. We told our guys before the game it was gonna come down to who made the plays.”
And who followed their coach’s orders.
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The game had a back story for the two men in charge, as Spartans skipper Brian “The Chef” Giallella coached Moceri when he was a heavy hitter for the Spartans during his playing days. It was the first time they went against each other as head coaches.
“It was a lot of fun,” Moceri said. “It’s cool being on the same field as him. Growing up he was the guy I looked up to.”