By PAUL GOTHAM
BATAVIA, N.Y. — Their coach worried about nerves. The players took care of any concerns.
Mike DiStefano turned in workmanlike performance on the mound, and Monroe’s offense wasted little time in a 12-4 defeat of Genesee Community College to open regional play, Friday afternoon.
DiStefano struck out one, walked none and allowed two earned runs in a complete-game effort for the Black and Gold. The right-hander faced the minimum in four innings and allowed just one runner in another.
“He’s a sophisticated pitcher,” Monroe head coach Dave Brust stated. “We’ve said that about him as long as we’ve had him. You don’t realize it because he doesn’t throw 80 miles per hour.”
The Tribunes sent ten to the plate in the first inning and gave the sophomore starter all the runs he needed.
“Before the game our guys were really quiet,” Brust noted. “I don’t know if they were anxious. I was concerned maybe they would be a little tight. That was the furthest thing from the truth.”
“They came out and were aggressive,” Brust stated. “That’s all we ask them to do. The best way to handle nerves is be aggressive, and they did exactly that.”
Latona worked a lead-off walk and moved to second on an Ellington Hopkins sacrifice bunt. Dave Vaccaro singled through the box, and Diaz launched a shot over the scoreboard in left center field for an early three-run lead.
“You’d like to think that’s what they’re supposed to do,” Brust added. “But in the post-season it’s a proverbial new season and having them step up in a game that is everything is great to see.”
Hunter Merrill‘s bases-loaded bunt single chased Genesee starter Enty Lourens and gave the Tribs a 4-0 lead. One out later, Latona drilled a triple to straight away center off Jeremie Gonzalez, and Monroe had all the runs it needed.
“I got to give all the credit to them,” DiStefano said of his lineup. “Without them and without the 12 runs, we’re not where we are.”
DiStefano surrendered a two-out home run to Brandon Henshaw in the third before retiring the side in order in the fourth.
“I was having a little trouble getting a break on the curveball today,” DiStefano noted. “I just kept spotting up and getting them to ground out. That’s what you got to do if you can’t find it.”
He was called upon to pick up his squad in the fifth. The sophomore hurler struck out the first batter of the frame before allowing an opposite-field bloop single and a base hit down the third base line. He appeared to have ended the inning twice with ground balls that were tailor made for double plays, but errors led to two unearned runs.
“I wasn’t thinking about it,” DiStefano explained. “I just keep doing what I was doing and throwing strikes. They’ve been helping me out all year long and making incredible plays. Eventually they’re going to boot a couple.
The Greece, New York native snuffed out the threat with another ground ball for an easy put out.
“That’s why Michael is so valuable,” Brust said. “His ability to stay under control, throw strikes in big situations and never be too concerned with what’s going on around him. He just pitches his game. You can’t say enough about him.”
Monroe’s infield turned inning-ending double plays in the sixth and seventh with Vaccaro handling the trick on both from shortstop.
“He makes that play on the one hop,” DiStefano said of the double play to end the sixth. “That was incredible. It was a hard line. He takes that off the chest and still turns two on it. I can’t believe it.”
Vaccaro also went 3-of-4 at the plate with two runs scored and two stolen bases. His only out of the afternoon was a well-hit line drive to third.
“I would expect that from Dave Vaccaro. He’s really a sophomore,” Brust said of the Fairport High alum who transferred after one year at Radford University. . “He’s been around college baseball. He knows big games. He’s a big player. Big players do big things. I would only expect that from him.”
Vaccaro along with Hopkins and Latona combined to go 7-of-9 with a walk and two sacrifices. The top three in the order scored five runs.
Monroe scored two in the fourth. Ryan Prevost connected on one of his two triples to start the stanza. Latona doubled inside the third base bag. A wild pitch later and Hopkins delivered with a sacrifice fly for a 9-2 lead.
Prevost tripled home Merrill in the fifth for a 10-4 advantage.
Tommy LaCongo made it 12-4 in the sixth with a single through the left side of the infield plating Hopkins and Vaccaro.
The Tribunes will play Mercyhurst NE Saturday afternoon at GCC. A noon first pitch is scheduled.