Baseball: No. 5 American Heritage shuts down No. 8 Benjamin

Maybe experience is overrated.

Both fifth-ranked American Heritage (17-5) and No. 8 Benjamin (13-8) sent underclassmen to the mound in a baseball showdown Tuesday night, and both tossed gems in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel. The Stallions came out ahead, with their one first-inning run proving to be the night’s only score.

American Heritage freshman Ben Vespi has been dominant all season, entering Tuesday’s game with a 4-1 record in seven starts and a 0.39 ERA to go along with it. That ERA will drop even more, as he tossed five scoreless innings, giving up only three hits while striking out six and walking three.

“Ben’s a gamer,” Stallions coach Carm Mazza said. “He brings multiple pitches for strikes. He’s not scared to throw any pitch in any count. He just wants to be excellent and he’s doing a great job.”

Vespi rarely found himself in trouble, and when he did allow a runner into scoring position, he quickly worked out of jams. After five innings, Mazza turned to another freshman pitcher, Nelson Berkwich, to close out the game.

Berkwich dealt with tendinitis earlier the season, missing three weeks, but has made a few relief appearances since returning to the mound. Tuesday’s game may have been his best outing since coming back: The freshman got the save after pitching two scoreless innings and striking out five batters.

“He looked pretty darn good tonight,” Mazza said.

Judge pitched well, too, but he was on the wrong end of good base-running and bad defense. He walked Heritage’s leadoff hitter, catcher Nathan Zuckerman, who promptly stole second. Zuckerman stole third as well and scored on an errant throw, giving the Stallions the only run they needed.

“We’re not hitting great,” Mazza said, “so we’ve got to be aggressive and score some runs.”

The win clinched the No. 1 spot in the District 6-4A tournament for the Stallions, setting them up for a good opportunity to make it out of a tough district and into the regional playoffs.

“We want to go in on a good note, so we want to keep playing well, pitching very well,” Mazza said. “We want to keep playing good, hard baseball and finish strong.”

No. 3 Park Vista 7, Atlantic 0: Emanuel Fernandez pitched five shutout innings and Chase Ashby had three hits, including a double, as the Cobras (15-4) shut out the Eagles (12-10).

Palm Beach Central 7, John I. Leonard 0: Brandon Liberto was 3-for-4 with two singles, a triple and two runs scored, and Jonathan Fortunato added two singles and two RBIs as the Broncos (14-8) shut out the Lancers (6-13).

Cardinal Newman 6, St. Andrew’s 1: Shane struck out nine in six innings and also was 2-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate and Joseph Yupp was 2-for-3 with an RBI as the Crusaders (5-14) defeated the Scots in Boca Raton.

Spanish River 5, Boca Raton 2: Alex Pearson struck out six in five scoreless innings and Matt Dignoti had a hit and two RBIS as the Sharks (11-9) defeated the Bobcats.

Olympic Heights 9, Somerset Canyons 1: Aaron Weldy pitched a complete game with eight strikeouts and Brandon O’Bryant was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI as the Lions (6-11) handled the Cougars. Ryan Posner had a hit and two RBIs for Heights.

Lake Worth Christian 2, Glades Day 0: Oscar Ruiz was 1-for-3, but the host Gators (13-5) fell to the Defenders.

St. John Paul Academy 10, Oxbridge Academy 3: P.J. Cimo was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs and Harrison Polanin went 2-for-3 with an RBI as the Eagles handled the Thunderwolves in Boca Raton.

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