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15U Nationals Continue Development

The main purpose of the 15U Northtown Nationals team is development. But it’s nice to get a win too.

That’s what happened Wednesday night as the Nationals defeated the 16U Clarence Red Devils 3-1 in Clarence Summer League action.

Nationals shortstop Vinny Capolupo (St. Joe’s) certainly showed some development during the contest. After being walked in his first at bat, he was picked off at first base. But Capolupo didn’t let his mistake phase him. He hit a double in his second at bat, and successfully bunted in his third plate appearance.

“I had to forget (the pickoff),” Capolupo said. “I thought about what I did wrong and then put it behind me.”

Nationals head coach Paul Nasca sees a lot of potential in his lead-off hitter.

“Capolupo is a very intelligent player,” Nasca said. “He can swing it and he can also drop a bunt here and there. He’s a great catalyst to have at the top of the order.”

After hitting the double, Capolupo was driven home for the game-winning run by Dante DiRienzo (Depew) with a double of his own in the third inning.

Austin Romanowski (Sweet Home) got the game’s first hit and later scored a run in the second inning. Romanowski hit the first pitch he saw and sent the ball into the outfield to get on base. Joe Reitebach brought him home on a single to left field.

The Clarence Red Devils got their only run of the game in the fourth inning. John Stevens led off the inning with a walk. John Scrocco (Canisius) successfully got Stevens to second on a sacrifice bunt and a hit by Ben Hanford (Clarence HS) helped him get over to third.

With runners on the corners, the Nationals defense planned to let the runner from third base score but catch the runner from first trying to steal second. However, there was some confusion in the Nationals’ infield and both Stevens scored from third and Hanford was able to steal second.

In the fifth, the Reds’ defensive errors cost them.

After giving up a walk to Colin Rice, the Nationals successfully converted back-to-back bunts. On the second bunt, the throw to third was off the mark and Rice was able to score the final run of the game.

It was pretty representative of the game for the Reds, who also had trouble getting things going offensively.

“We couldn’t hit,” 16U Red Devils head coach Brad Stamm said. “We were down a couple starters today but in general the kids weren’t stepping up. We were flat today.”

The Reds made a last-ditch effort to keep the game going in the sixth.

Chad LaCivita (Canisius) is one of the team’s starting pitchers so he doesn’t see the plate often. But Wednesday he needed to step in. Stamm asked him for a big hit and LaCivita delivered. He hit a double deep, almost reaching the fence.

“He’s been struggling lately,” Stamm said. “I told him before he came up ‘give me one of those gap shot doubles’, and so he did.”

Jack Ohle hit a single to move LaCivita over to third, but it wasn’t enough as the next batter was caught looking for the game’s final out.

Despite the loss, the Reds have had strong year so far. Clarence is 3-1 in league play this year. Last weekend they went to the championship round at the Cap Classic tournament in Pittsburgh.

The 15U Northtown Nationals have also had a strong year. They are 9-8 this year playing in a division with 16U teams. The Nationals, which is made up of players from eight different schools, have made it to the final round of all of their tournaments this season.

According to Nasca the goal of this team is develop players who are on the cusp of making varsity rosters at their high schools.

“We’re improving and getting better,” Nasca said. “This is a team where we’re trying to develop these kids for their high school programs. It’s first and foremost about these kids getting better.”

Next: The 15U Nationals are going to a tournament in Mentor, Ohio this weekend. The Red Devils are back at it Thursday night as they take on the Clarence Reds (Pavicich) at Clarence HS at 6 p.m.

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