Leto responds to Pizzio’s pep talk, top Robinson 5-4

Leto senior Demetri Passalaris weathered three unearned runs, giving the Falcons five innings to earn a win against Robinson.

By Mike Camunas, Creative Director

EGYPT LAKE – They needed a pep talk.

So, Leto got one – although, much of it can’t be repeated.

Falcons coach J.J. Pizzio is sorry for that, but, in the end, it worked.

Click here for more photos from this game.

Because Leto erased an early three-run deficit and held on for a 5-4 win over Robinson on Tuesday evening.

“Sure, it worked, and it should always work, but it shouldn’t come from me,” Pizzio admitted. “Championship teams, good teams, they have to do that to themselves. They motivate themselves, they have the ability to push each other to the point where we, as coaches, don’t have to do that.

“We look like a bad guy, at times, but that’s the passion we want our players to have.”

Leto skipper JJ Pizzio gave his team an earful in the middle of the second inning, firing up his young Falcons team for a comeback win. 

Even though Pizzio played the villain, it jump-started the Falcons, who came out flat and found themselves in a 3-0 hole by the second inning, even though starter Demetri Passalaris looked sharp on the mound.

Defensive miscues — which led to five Leto errors on the night — and some well-placed hits by the Knights, let Robinson (9-8) score three runs (all unearned) on four hits off Passalaris.

Robinson junior Brady Capps was 3-for-4 for the Knights with a double and two RBI.

Brady Capps drove in two runs, scoring Brady Hardin and CJ Maglalang, while Rhyder Robinson scored the third run.

“The first inning could’ve been a little better, but the second inning, that wasn’t going the right way,” Passalaris said, “but I have to continue to trust my teammates. It’s not always fun to have errors behind you, but as long as I continue to trust them, I know they make those plays nine out ten times and that they’ve always got my back.”

Falcons first baseman Arley Duran waits on a throw-over from Passaralis. 

That’s when Pizzio lit a fire under the Falcons, during the middle of the second inning. He may have been harsh, but Passalaris knew it was exactly the right kind of pep talk.

“Coach knows how to get us going,” Passalaris added, “and sometimes we come out to games a little flat, so having a guy that is able to motivate us — it’s not always the nicest, but we’re tough enough to take it and it’s usually just what we need to hear.

“I’ve been hearing since my freshman year. He’s always been a tough coach, but at some point, it switches where he doesn’t have to say it, but you know he wants to say it or what he would say before saying it

“You know it’s coming and you know what you have to do.”

Leto third baseman Caleb Rodriguez throws for an out. Rodriguez was 1-for-3 in the win.

But, again, the pep talk worked.

Leto (7-8) answered right back with a three-spot of its own in the bottom of the second.

Back-to-back singles by Isaiah Quinonez and Erik Perez off Robinson starter Nathan Porath — who struck out six — led to a fielder’s choice by Fabian Torres, an RBI double by Emilio Monje and an RBI single by Gerard Ortega.

Emilio Monte celebrates at second base, after his RBI double in the second.

“Where we jumped on them,” Knights coach Alex Barron said, “they were making it hard on themselves, but they shut that valve off, and we left ours open.”

Leto’s Isaiah Quinones squares up a pitch for a single, and would score a run. 

Passalaris would settle in and finish off five innings on 89 pitches, while striking out four and walking three.

“He’s the smartest guy on the team, almost a 4.0 GPA, 1400-1500 SAT score,” Pizzio said, “but sometimes he just forgets that he’s smart, or to recognize the count — this is a fastball count, not when coach tells you, or that we’re not throwing that kid any fastballs.

“He has a plus breaking ball and a great changeup that he didn’t even use tonight. There were two doubles he gave up which should have been the breaking ball or the changeup, down and away, but they weren’t. … He’s a great kid and he gets yelled at a lot, but he’s become a man since coming to this team, and he really settled in and showed what he can bring to the mound when he remembers how smart he is.”

Robinson starting pitcher Nathan Porath struck out six hitters in his five innings.

The Falcons would take the lead in the fourth when Monje drove in Torres and extended the lead in the fifth when Denzel Martinez stole home.

Though the Knights didn’t lay down just yet.

Even after reliever Angel Arroyo, Jr. struck out two in the sixth, Martinez came in to close the game in the seventh, but struggled to get the final out. Thanks to a walk and two singles — by Samuel Hyman and Angelo Rivera, respectively — Robinson added one more when Maddox Thomas scored on Leto’s fifth error of the night.

Knights sophomore Samuel Hyman was 2-for-4 with a double in the loss.

Martinez would get Rhyder Robinson to ground out to end the game.

“We’ve had some really good teams beat — Gaither, Jesuit, Jefferson, Sickles, Newsome — and these are all the top teams,” Pizzio said, “but they’re not communicating to each other, especially that the game is seven innings. … I don’t want to say we’re young, but their experience level isn’t as high because they’ve never played in the starting (roles).”

The Knights are also inexperienced, but Barron isn’t using it as an excuse either, as he’s seen the mistake-prone play cut down as the season rolls on.

Sophomore Jack Perkins worked a clean inning of relief for the nights, with one strikeout.

“We’re a really young team and the majority of our starters are sophomores,” he added. “So, we have some inexperience and it’s kind of rearing its head a little bit even though we’re seeing the promise — there’s still the heartbreak.

“Moving forward, in large part, we are starting to shave down the mistakes, starting to do that more collectively, so we have more opportunities to finish out the games with a win.”

Senior Denzel Martinez picked up the save in relief for the Falcons.

Leto 5, Robinson 4

R 030|000|1 – |4|6|3
L 030|110|x – |5|9|5
W – Passalaris; L – Porath; S – Martinez
2B – Capps, Hyman (R); Monje (L). Records – R (9-8); L (7-8).