Some baseball guys don't like to think too much at the plate. They see the ball. They hit the ball.
Washington Township's Vinnie Nocella takes a different approach. He likes being the team's designated hitter because it gives him time in the dugout to analyze his at-bats.
"I love thinking about what just happened, thinking about what he threw me and thinking about what I'm going to do the next time I get up," Nocella said Saturday after leading Washington Township to a 7-3 victory over Eastern in the first round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
Nocella was 4 for 4 with three RBIs as Washington Township (18-1), the No. 2 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, advanced to face St. Augustine in the tournament quarterfinals next Saturday. St. Augustine advanced in the second game of the doubleheader at Deptford with a 13-0 win over Sacred Heart.
Winning pitcher Billy Grubb worked six-plus innings. The junior righthander (6-1) allowed three runs on seven hits, with two walks and four strikeouts.
"Billy threw a great game," Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro Jr. said. "He worked ahead almost the whole game."
The Minutemen played errorless defense. They also produced a pair of web gems as junior first baseman Shaine Hughes made a diving stop and unassisted putout in the third, and sophomore rightfielder Chris Hartz made a running catch in the gap in the fourth.
"We have athletes all over the field," Alvaro said.
Nocella, a senior, delivered an RBI single in the first. Tom Hildebrand and Matt Long also drove in runs as the Minutemen took a 3-0 lead before they took the field.
"I like putting a number up there in the first inning," Alvaro said. "It helps you relax a little bit."
Eastern coach Rob Christ thought the early deficit hamstrung his team, especially given the fast-paced nature of games under the Diamond Classic's speedup rules.
"It's tough to surrender the lead that early," Christ said. "Whether it's reality or not, the games just seem to fly by."
Junior second baseman Nick Tierno was 2 for 3 with a run and sophomore centerfielder Tom Flacco delivered a two-run double for Eastern (13-7).
Losing pitcher Mike Marchitto struck out seven but was undercut a bit by his defense. The Vikings committed two errors in the third and two more in the fifth, when the Minutemen combined for four runs.
"He deserved better," Christ said of Marchitto.
Nocella had a two-run double in the third as Washington Township took a 5-0 lead. He singled and scored in the fifth and ripped another double in the seventh.
Hughes and senior second baseman Connor Hanrahan each scored two runs, and Long closed the game by pitching a scoreless seventh.
"It seems like we're all having our best year," Nocella said.
Washington Township 3020200 - 780
Eastern 0010200 - 374
WP: Billy Grubb. LP: Mike Marchitto. 2B: WT-Vinnie Nocella 2; E-Nick Tierno, Tom Flacco.