Piper Holds Annual Cancer Charity Game; Deerfield Wins On The Field
When Piper head coach Chris Costanzo scheduled his team’s annual cancer charity game before the season, he had no idea just how emotional the night would turn out to be. Costanzo spent the afternoon attending the funeral of longtime Broward umpire, and good friend to the Piper coach, Frank Amendola. The 72-year-old Amendola lost his battle with lung cancer on Monday.
Thursday’s charity game held at Piper Field was to raise money for the Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Hospital. The evening brought out the best in the local community, with food being donated by Bru’s Room, Chili’s, Publix, Chik-fil-A and Scuotto’s Pizza. The uniforms for the home team were made special for the occasion by Webster’s.
“We just wanted to show appreciation for the children with cancer,” said Costanzo, speaking about the reason behind the fundraiser. “This particular cause hits home for me. Personally, I lost my mom to cancer, and probably my best friend, Frank Amendola, he passed away on Monday. He had stage four lung cancer, so it was a special event for me, and I appreciate Deerfield participating with us in this event.”
On hand from the city of Sunrise were commissioners Joey Scoutto and Larry Sofield. Throwing out the first pitch for the game was 16-year-old Christa Barone, who has recently beaten cancer through chemotherapy and other treatments.
Once the game began, Deerfield quickly tried to change the festive mood the Piper players were in. The Bucks, who had yet to win a game this season coming into their District 8A-11 match-up with Piper, scored five runs in the third inning, then survived a late Bengals rally to win 7-6. Bucks head coach Scott Bragg knew this would be a tough game for his team with all of the emotions riding high on the Piper side of the field and in the stands.
“Early in the game, we tried to put the pressure on them,” said Bragg. “We knew what kind of night this was for them. This was a great situation, a charity event, but we knew coming in that if they got something going, they were going to have the emotions and the fans behind them, so we tried to stop that momentum right at the beginning. We executed some plays that we hadn’t been executing so far this season, and that was the difference.”
The Bengals played sloppy defense throughout. In the third inning, Deerfield scored their five runs with the help of three Piper errors. During the inning, lead-off hitter Andre Campbell, Evan Wider and Brian Johnson had hits that helped lead to the five runs.
Campbell is the emotional leader of the Bucks, and he was a nuisance to the Bengals all night at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Defensively, Campbell was just as big, making key plays at times when the Bengals were rallying.
“I just wanted to go the other way, hit the ball hard, get on base any way I could,” said Campbell.
When asked about his stellar defense, Campbell pointed to the need to be solid defensively.
“I take a lot of pride in my defense, because we knew we had a young kid on the mound, and we had to make every play we could get for him, so we get his confidence up, and we did that, and we pulled through with the win.
The “kid” Campbell was referring to was freshman Matt Simons, who only recently was moved up from JV to varsity. Simons kept the Piper batters off balance for the majority of the night and was only three outs away from throwing a complete game. When the Bengals’ first two hitters reached base in the seventh, Bragg went to his bullpen and closer Mitchell Carroll. After loading the bases on a fielder’s choice and a walk, Carroll got a strikeout and a pop-up to third to end the game and secure the win.
As for winning pitcher Simons, he finished the night giving up only six hits.
“Once I got the early run support, I just did my job on the mound, and everything worked out,” said Simons, after picking up his first career high school win. “For the most part, I felt good out there. A couple of batters I felt a little uneasy, but once I settled in, I was glad I could help us win the game.”
As for Costanzo, the goodwill from the pregame festivities can only help his team so much in the coming days, as the coach hinted that he is frustrated with the mental errors, and that things may be different when Spring Break games start next week.
“This was the worst performance of the year, and it came at a terrible time before the break,” said Costanzo. “I’m actually speechless right now. Deerfield made the plays when they needed to tonight, and they executed when they needed to, and that was the difference in the game. But for us, we’re going to have some changes when we get back. We started with a couple of them tonight, and we’re going to have some changes. That’s all I can say.”