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Mt. Hebron baseball outslugs Centennial to earn fourth win in five games

Friday afternoon's baseball game between between Mt. Hebron and Centennial, as told by the Vikings coach, its winning pitcher and standout hitter, boiled down to energy.

The Eagles came out with vigor, which led to a four-run third inning comprised of two two-run doubles from the top of the order. On the hill, senior Alex Crocamo limited the high-powered Mt. Hebron offense to one run through the first three frames. The result was an early 4-1 deficit, prompting Vikings coach Brian Culley to bring his team together and deliver a simple message entering the bottom half of the fourth inning.

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"That was the defining moment right there," Culley said after the Vikings' 12-6 win. "I gathered them up and said, 'I'm confident we're going to win this game, but we've got the pick up the energy level."

The group talk helped Mt. Hebron "turn that switch on," senior Noah D'Alonzo said, and rediscover an offense that averaged nine runs over the first four games. With Mark Lettieri leading the way, the Vikings plated six runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth, giving D'Alonzo more than enough run support to finish off a 12-6 slugfest.

The win marked the fourth win in five games to start the season and served as a bounce-back performance after giving up nine runs to Marriotts Ridge in the final two innings of a 9-5 loss on Wednesday.

"The part that got us most was that we made a ton of mental mistakes that game," Lettieri said. "So, coming into this game, we were preaching limiting the mental mistakes, and everything will fall into place itself. I think we did a very good job of that today."

After missing summer baseball with a wrist injury, Lettieri is back at full health and showed as much with a near flawless day at the plate He produced two singles and two doubles, drove in four runs and scored twice.

His biggest knock came with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, Mt. Hebron (4-1 county, 4-1 overall) holding a 7-4 lead. With the bases loaded, Lettieri launched his fourth hit over the left fielder's head, perhaps the farthest Culley has seen the senior catcher hit the ball in his high school career. All three runs came in to score on the play, which ended with Lettieri trotting towards second base with stand-up double.

Moments later, he came around to score on a single by senior outfielder Michael Mason, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and joined Thomas Fitzpatrick and Lake Lloyd as the team's multi-hit players on Friday afternoon.

"It comes together as one beautiful piece when he swings the bat like he did today," Culley said of Lettieri. "He gets on base all over the place, setting the tone for innings, multiple times coming up with big at-bats."

The offensive production Mt. Hebron received from its top five batters gave D'Alonzo, a Wilmington University commit, a comfortable cushion he all but maintained as the game progressed. And his stat line — six runs, 10 hits and eight strikeouts— doesn't tell the full story of his complete-game outing.

D'Alonzo cruised through the first two innings with a low pitch count and continued to hit his desired spots in the third frame. Only this time, Centennial batters found holes. There was a bloop single over the shortshop's head, then back-to-back well-placed bunts that went for singles. Still no hard contact, yet he found himself in a bases-loaded jam with no outs.

He forced the next hitter to pop out to first base but then made a few mistakes, which juniors Phillip Crispell and Jake Watson crushed for two-run doubles, and all of the sudden D'Alonzo was pitching from behind.

However, staying composed, D'Alonzo, induced an inning-ending groundout and then proceeded to retire six out of the next seven batters over the next two innings.

And by the time D'Alonzo took the mound to start the fifth, Mt. Hebron had roared back to take an 11-4 lead. It took a few innings, but the Vikings found the necessary intensity to overcome a slow start and continue their hot start to the 2018 campaign.

"My pitchers, they worked hard, but they left the ball up in certain situations and they got hit hard," Centennial coach Denis Ahearn said. "Give Hebron credit. They took advantage of our mistakes."

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Mt. Hebron (4-1 county, 4-1 overall) — 12, Centennial (0-4, 0-4) — 6

-------123 456 7 R-H-E

C — 004 002 0 6-10-1

MH — 010 641 x 12-14-1

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