By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
NORTHFIELD — Prior to this week, former Ocean City High School star outfielder Dom Fiorentino hadn’t had a live at-bat since March, and his first trip to the plate on Wednesday night in an Atlantic County Baseball League tilt against host Northfield wasn’t anything to write mama about.
But Fiorentino and his Ocean City teammates got things going after a slow start, as he blasted a solo home run in the third and added a double in the fourth to help lead his club past the Cardinals, 6-4. Ocean City was shut out, 12-0, on Tuesday night in the opener of the 135th season of the ACBL, which has been shortened to a 12-game, four-week regular season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The middle of March was the last time I saw a live arm. I’ve been hitting off a tee and working out a little here and there,” said Fiorentino, who played his college ball at Ursinus but still has one year of eligibility left and plans to pursue a masters degree at Wilmington University and play there. “My first at-bat was a little rough, to be honest, and my legs and bat felt a little heavy. But it’s like riding a bike, you just have to get back on it.”
Ocean City got some good pitching against one of the league’s top lineups, as Tyler Mondile — a former star at Gloucester Catholic and sixth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2016 — combined with another former Gloucester Catholic standout, Brendan Bean, to keep the Cardinals in check most of the game. The finish wasn’t without dramatics, however, as Bean — who pitched three innings in relief of Mondile — loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh but then recorded a strikeout to end the game.
“I got drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in the sixth round, but for the past year or so I’ve been a free agent. Last summer I played independent ball and this summer I was going to go play in Michigan, but things fell through because of the Covid-19 and I find myself here,” said Mondile, a 22-year-old right-hander. “The competition level going from high school to pro ball is a big jump, all those guys can play. Anyone who puts on a professional uniform, they know how to play. I’m definitely a better pitcher than when I got drafted. I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about the game. Every time I’m out here I’m learning.”
Northfield (1-1) took an early 1-0 lead but Ocean City tied it up with a solo homer in the second inning from Steve Normane, a former Rutgers University player and current head coach at Holy Spirit High. Ocean City then tacked on four runs in the third, highlighted by Fiorentino’s homer and an RBI single to right by catcher Joe Gallagher, but the Cardinals rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to cut the deficit to 5-3. Junior Mejia, who played for Hammonton the past couple of years, had an RBI single and former EHT High standout Justin Epifanio scored on an error. Ocean City added a run in the fifth and Northfield answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth on a run-scoring hit from Brett Uhing, but Bean was able to close the door in the seventh after running into some trouble.
“A lot of leagues got canceled so a lot of guys who were going to go away are back. We have a nice little pitching staff and we can swing the bats, so I think we’ll be alright. Northfield is always a good team so this is a nice tone-setter for the season. I’m excited to see how we can do,” Fiorentino said.
Said Mondile, who pitched 154 innings in three minor league seasons and hopes to catch the eyes of a professional team again with some good performances this summer, “I’ve been throwing live. The last time I threw in a game was last summer, but I’ve been throwing live BP to these guys the past couple of weeks. I felt good. I felt fresh. I was a little rusty tonight just getting back into the swing of things — I don’t like walking people and I rarely do that, but I just had to get the rust off. I was letting it loose as much as possible. I just have to get better mentally and physical and learn new stuff every time I get out there. I just have to get the right eyes on me now, and be good that day.”
What’s next: Ocean City travels to Ventnor on Thursday at 7 p.m. Northfield hosts Margate Hurricanes on Friday at 7 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays