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Nottingham advances to championship round of District 12 tournament – ​​Trentonian

Nottingham's Gabe Correa throws a hit against HTRBA during a District 12 Little League baseball game Sunday afternoon at Sunnybrae Little League in Hamilton Twp. (Kyle Franko/ Trentonian Photo)

HAMILTON – Jeffrey Iorio gave his Uncle Gary a rough night, but the 12-year-old Sunnybrae Little League all-star coach didn't mind.

“If I'm going to get beaten by somebody, it better be him,” said a smiling Gary Leonardo after his nephew's one-hitter led Nottingham to a 10-0 four-inning mercy rule victory over host Sunnybrae in the District 12 winners' round finale on Wednesday night.

West Windsor won the first game of the night – 7-2 in an elimination match – and will play Sunnybrae on Friday. Nottingham will face the survivor on Saturday and have two chances to win a game.

The Sayen Gang is on a roll, winning their first three games by a combined score of 30-2. Iorio became Nottingham's third consecutive pitcher to throw a one-hitter, as Declan Sweeney's second-inning single was Brae's only baserunner. He struck out eight times and allowed three more easy grounders to first base.

“I've been drinking and concentrating all day,” Iorio said. “My favorite position is pitcher. But we won that as a team. All of those runs were a team effort, not one individual. Balls were put in play and we made the plays. We win and lose as a team, that's how it is.”

The pitcher already had a 6-0 lead before he stepped onto the mound when Nottingham exploded in the first inning.

Consecutive doubles by Ayden Peach, Michael Tilton, Gabe Correa, Iorio and Jake Kostopolis made it 4-0. Ben Kostro hit a single and reached second base on a throw, and Joey Gargone followed with an RBI single.

“It's definitely a lot easier to pitch in this situation,” Iorio said. “It takes a lot of pressure off.”

Manager Colin Kell agreed, saying: “It's great. I always tell them if we get a crooked number in the first inning and keep going from there, that's a really good start and I'm happy with our chances. We swung the bat well. They really bought into it. They're really good teammates and they encourage each other.”

Iorio immediately set the defensive tone for Nottingham when he struck out the team in the bottom of the first inning, two of which were counted as third strikes as he caught five batters watching that night.

Nottingham continued its attack in the second. Evan Rogers hit an RBI triple and scored on a missed fly ball. Tilton followed with a two-run homer, giving him a three-RBI game and two home runs and seven RBI in the tournament.

From then on, the only question was whether Iorio could keep up with his teammates and throw another one-hitter.

“I'm just going to go out there and whatever happens,” he said. “I'm going to do my best, but that's what I'm hoping to accomplish.”

When Nottingham had to play an extra game due to the (unfortunate) draw at the start of the tournament, Kell wasn't worried, knowing he had the pitching to survive.

“Pitching is key,” he said. “Coach (Bryan) Rogers (a former Steinert pitcher) handles the pitching and we're happy with the guys we have. We've been very fortunate. Tilton started the tournament and threw a gem, Peach followed with another gem and Jeffrey was just as good as those two. We're happy to have all three.”

And Sunnybrae are lucky to have a team that is not bothered by a one-sided score on the field. The way they defended, you would have thought the score was 1-0, not 10-0.

With a runner on second base, the Brae made a 4-3-2 double play and caught the runner attempting to score from second base. In the third inning, Sunnybrae threw out another runner attempting to score on a fly ball, and in the fourth inning, Cale Lyon made a diving catch in center that prevented another run.

“They're always on the ball,” Kell said. “Gary does a great job with these guys. They give it their all and do a phenomenal job. They fight from the first pitch to the last, no matter what the score is.”

They would love to play in Nottingham again after playing the Sayen Gang in the Championship round last year, but it will take a huge effort to stop the locomotive from Hamilton Square.

“We weren't that sharp at the beginning, but we've worked a lot harder to get better and we just want to hold out until the end,” Iorio said.

West Windsor will also be hoping for a chance against Nottingham after winning their second straight elimination game. Paul Hamm's team rode the pitching of the manager's son, as Jacob Hamm allowed five hits, one walk and one hit batsmen, and struck out five times.

After trailing 1-0, West Windsor scored four runs in the first and played confidently from there. Hamm had a single, a double, an RBI and two runs, while Ryder Hutchinson scored a single and two runs. Brady Mittendorf and Dan Chu each had a hit, a run and an RBI, and Kiran Shelat had a hit and a run.

Robbinsville (0-2) 101 000 – 2 5 2

West Windsor (2-1) 401 20X – 7 6 0

Premiere: Hamm. LP: Brachella. 2B: R-Conti, W-Hamm. RBI: RB. Sodaro, Tripathi, W-Hamm, Mittendorf, Chu, Popovic, Cianchetti.

Nottingham (3-0) 640 0XX – 10 9 0

Sunnybrae (1-1) 000 0XX – 0 1 2

WP: Iorio. LP: Marchetti. 2B: N-Peach, Tilton, Correa, Iorio, Kostopolis. 3B: N-Rogers. RBI: Rogers, Peach, Tilton 3, Correa, Iorio, Kostopolis, Kostro, Gargone.