As Anthony Solometo turned in yet another fantastic performance on the mound for Bishop Eustace on May 26, the championship game of the 47th Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic against Williamstown, it was just another Soli-day, as coach Sam Tropiano says.
“He just brings everybody’s game up,” said Tropiano. “We call it a Soli-day; when [Solometo] is on the mound, we just feel good and everyone’s a little more relaxed out there. We know we just have to get him a few runs and he’ll make it stand.”
The University of North Carolina commit and projected first-round pick in July’s MLB draft once again put on a stellar performance for the Crusaders, pitching 5.2 scoreless innings while scattering two hits and striking out 12.
A weather delay on a 3-0 count in the top of the sixth inning would cause Solometo to leave the game when play ultimately resumed, but the senior did his job in preventing any runs to cross home plate. Eustace would go on to win the game 8-1 behind Solometo’s start, clinching the program’s seventh Diamond Classic title.
Now through 32.2 innings so far this year, Solometo has struck out 64 batters while allowing one earned run on five hits and five walks, including a five inning no-hitter against Don Bosco Prep earlier in the month.
Despite starting a championship game where numerous scouts gathered behind home plate to watch the big name in South Jersey and the country on the mound, Solometo once again shined without much trouble.
“No pressure for me,” Solometo said. “I see all these other guys around the local area and around the world even doing some pretty great things on the mound, and I want to put all the pressure on them, and I mean that in a good way, because we’re competing and making each other better.
“Whenever I see someone make an accomplishment, I want to outdo it; it’s all about the competition,” Solometo added.
Outstanding starting pitching by the Crusaders has been the story all year long and the main reason why Eustace is now up to 20-0 on the year after its recent Diamond Classic title, a victory that breaks its previous tie with Gloucester Catholic for tournament victories at six.
Despite an undefeated record and recent Diamond Classic title, Tropiano says the offense has been a troublesome aspect of the team all season long. Throughout much of the year, three, four or five runs in a game was commonplace for the Crusaders during much of the year, leaving the coach wanting more run support by the end of each game.
But just like a team peaking at the right time, the offense has started to come around as of late.
“The game plan coming in was the same it has been all year, which is get your pitch, have a good approach and put the ball in play with two strikes,” Tropiano said. “They’re finally starting to embrace the approach that we have and that’s starting to make us more productive hitters … The renaissance of our hitting started a week ago, when we put up a good number. We did it again the day after that, and then we put up double digits just yesterday before tonight, so I feel really good about what we’re doing right now.”
Coming into the year, Solometo and his teammates identified a few goals they wanted to accomplish, with a Diamond Classic title naturally being one of them. Looking back, Solometo said he’s beyond excited they were able to accomplish their goal.
“I wanted this selfishly for myself, but also for the team as a whole. We wanted to put another number up on that banner and see ourselves win the Diamond Classic in 2021,” he admitted. “I never won a Diamond before, so this is a great feeling.”