St. Joseph’s Cantone cashes in on opportunity by Greg Tartaglia of The Record
MONTVALE – On the inside of his baseball cap, Nick Cantone has written the words “overtake failure” in capital letters.
The closest thing the St. Joseph pitcher experienced to “failing” in Monday’s game against division rival Don Bosco came in the top of the fifth. His team began the inning with a three-run lead, which had dwindled to one by the time he reached a 2-2 count on Ironman cleanup hitter Mike Manganella.
Cantone remembered his mantra and escaped the jam with a strikeout, propelling the Green Knights to a 4-3 win that raised their record to 8-0 and kept them atop the Big North United.
“It’s such a special two words to me,” the senior right-hander said. “And this team, we’re a bunch of brothers. So it wasn’t even like I was [alone] in that situation, I felt like the whole team was in it with me.”
Cantone (3-0) struck out 11 in all, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in a 99-pitch complete game.
The teammate to whom he referred as his closest brother, Devin Ortiz, originally was scheduled to get the start for St. Joseph, ranked No. 1 in The Record baseball Top 25.
“It was his turn in the rotation, but I told him when we got to the field today that I had a couple reasons that I wanted Nick to throw,” Green Knights coach Mark Cieslak said. “And Devin said, ‘Absolutely, coach, I think it’s a great idea’.”
“I had my arm sleeve and wrist tape on, ready to go play center field,” Cantone said. “Coach Cieslak explained to me why he thought I should be starting, and it just made total sense to me.”
Ortiz played shortstop, started a key 6-4-3 double play to end the sixth inning and batted 3-for-3 with two RBI – one of which came on his 100th career hit – against Don Bosco ace Matt Semon (1-1).
“Matt’s a great pitcher, I know him personally,” Ortiz said, “and just protecting at the plate was my goal [Monday], not to let anything down the middle.”
The University of Virginia-bound standout reached his milestone with a single that drove home Cantone in the first. No. 3 Don Bosco (3-3) drew even on Ryan Carr’s solo homer to lead off the second.
In the third, Ortiz and his double-play partner, senior Mike D’Andrea, sparked a three-run Green Knights outburst. D’Andrea beat out an infield single with one out, and after a Cantone flyout and a D’Andrea steal, Ortiz stroked an RBI ground-rule double.
“The last few games, I’d led off an inning with a hit, so I knew my guys had my back,” said D’Andrea, the No. 9 hitter in a lineup with essentially no easy outs.
“Not with this lineup,” D’Andrea added. “One through nine, it just does damage.”
The Ironman order had a chance to do likewise in the fifth, with 7-8-9 hitters Daniel Helfgott (hit by pitch), Justin Cabanas (walk) and Anthony Petrosino (walk) loading the bases with no out.
Leadoff man Tommy Courtney (2-for-4) then smashed a liner back to the mound that took a big carom off the pitcher’s glove, allowing Helfgott to score and cut the St. Joseph lead to 4-2.
Cantone responded with back-to-back strikeouts, and although Don Bosco got one more run on a wild pitch, his whiff of Manganella ended the rally.
“He’s a fastball pitcher, and he completely changed his game for them,” Cieslak said of Cantone. “I’m telling you, 80 percent curveballs, sliders or off-speed.”
Semon allowed four earned runs in 5⅔ innings. The junior’s fastball touched the high 80s on the radar guns of scouts gathered behind the backstop throughout the game.
The same two teams are slated to meet in Ramsey on Wednesday.