Loudoun County, Va. — One hundred baseball teams from around the country converged in Fort Myers, Florida for the Perfect Game 17U BCS National Championship, starting the week of July 9. Many of these teams came from powerhouse organizations who feature rosters loaded with Division I talent. Loudoun-based Diamond Elite were at first possibly overlooked by much of the field as a lesser-known organization among the national baseball community.
By the end of the week, however, the name Diamond Elite would be hard to forget. The group – anchored by a lights out pitching staff and solid defense – rolled through pool play at a 5-0-1 mark. Strong pitching performances from Potomac Falls High School rising junior Nate Savino and Kettle Run High School rising junior Joe Vogatsky propelled Diamond Elite into the semifinals of the championship bracket.
“We went in as the underdogs, and no one expected us to make it that far,” Savino said. “We had great team chemistry and fought and it showed on the field.”
In a grueling tournament in which teams are expected to play up to ten games in under a week, Diamond Elite’s pitching staff put up remarkable numbers, allowing just five runs in their first six games. Savino – the 2018 All-LoCo Player of the Year – and Vogatsky both amassed double-digit strikeout numbers in complete game efforts.
The talented Diamond Elite rotation was supported by consistency at the plate from Riverside High School rising senior outfielder Nick Connolly, who reached base in eight of the nine games that the team played in the tournament. Loudoun Valley High School rising senior Reese Goodlin kept a hot bat throughout the week, driving in important insurance runs for the pitching staff, which threw two shutouts.
The defense – captained by Riverside rising senior shortstop and Yale-bound Carson Swank – came up with crucial plays and prevented opponents from scoring key runs. The game that Diamond Elite tied in pool play, would have been a loss if not for Riverside rising senior outfielder John Heltebran making a perfect throw to double up a runner attempting to score the potential winning run.
Although the group was eventually defeated by the Florida Burn Platinum in a tournament semifinal, they had certainly made a lasting impact in the minds of those who witnessed the run: Diamond Elite can and will compete at the national level.
“They believed in Diamond Elite and trusted the process,” head coach Sam Plank said. “This group has put in lots of hard work over past few years, and it is paying off. They all love and respect the game of baseball!”