Cardinal Mooney pitcher Gino Divincenzo stands 5-foot 8. Barely.
He can fire up a fastball when he needs to, but it’s not overpowering.
He has a slider that can serve as a nasty out pitch with two strikes.
None of that mattered in a Division II district semifinal Tuesday at Bob Cene Park. The senior’s splitter was falling off the table and crippling Canfield’s batters.
“I’m throwing it pretty well right now,” Divincenzo said.
Canfield would concur.
Divincenzo threw a complete-game shutout, giving up only a sixth-inning single, in a 2-0 Cardinal Mooney victory. He walked one batter in the opening frame and hit a batter to lead off the final inning. He was nearly perfect in between.
“His velocity was up and he wanted the game,” Mooney coach Al Franceschelli. “He’s been envisioning this for a while. You know these kids are friends, but he pitched an outstanding game.”
After the first-inning walk, Canfield (13-8) went four innings without a base runner. Divincenzo struck out eight and very few balls left the infield.
“Gino did an unbelievable job today —he really did,” Canfield coach Matt Koenig said. “He’s a bulldog out there, man. He was fired up from inning No. 1 to inning No. 7.
“Even when we had a couple of things going, which weren’t many, he bared down and he got the job done.”
Divincenzo’s battery mate, Jimmy Leone, was in a grove early as well. He ran into some trouble in the third inning, as Divincenzo drew a one-out walk. The next batter, Christian Lowery, doubled to right center putting two runners in scoring position.
Jon Saadey hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Divincenzo. Mooney’s cleanup hitter, Drew Beck, then crushed a one-hopper off the wall in left-center, scoring Lowery.
That was all the run support the bulldog on the hill would need.
“I came in wanting to throw strikes and I knew if I did that we’d win,” Divincenzo said. “If you didn’t see today, my defense makes every play out there and I have full trust in them.”
The intensity also picked up early with a play at home plate. Mooney had runners on first and third with two outs in the top of the second when Trent Humphreys took off for second base. Canfield catcher Carter Rhoads threw down, but it was cut off by shortstop Edmond Pilolli. As Mooney’s Harrison Wagner took off for home, Pilolli fired it back to Rhoads, who was blocking the plate. Wagner ran over Rhoads, who had the ball in plenty of time to record the out.
The home-plate umpire called Wagner out and also tossed him from the game, citing malicious intent.
“I’m not going to doubt what [the umpire] said because obviously he had a better angle on it than I did,” Franceschelli said. “He ruled it was a malicious hit and he suspended the boy.
“You live and die by what the umpire does. What are you gonna do?”
Mooney (18-2) will face Poland today at 6:30 p.m. for the district title. Divincenzo said this team has had one goal in mind and Tuesday was nothing more than another step toward a state championship.
“This team’s special,” he said. “We don’t have guys who can hit the ball 500 feet or throw it 90 mph, but we come together as a team and win baseball games.”