A Pair of Electric Arms Highlight Opening Day of the National Team Championships NC

Stix's Ethan Baiotto and Scorpions Scout Team's Keegan Deihl both hurled five-inning no-hitters as they helped their teams to 1-0 ledgers at 17U Champs North Carolina on Tuesday

Over the years, the National Team Championships in North Carolina has seen its fair share of talented arms come through the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. since it began in 2020.

In 2023, 570 strikeouts alone were recorded during the 17U edition of the event; yet despite the awe-inspiring number, only 11 players recorded eight or more strikeouts during a single shift on the mound.

On the opening day of 2024 17U Champs North Carolina, a pair of elite arms set the tone in dominant wins for their respective teams and signaled to the rest that the road to this year’s crown isn’t going to be easy.

Stix’s Ethan Baiotto and Scorpions Scout Team’s Keegan Deihl were in full command for their teams during the 10:45 a.m. slate of games, spearheading shutout wins as the pair hurled nearly identical no-hit gems on the mound.

Baiotto, who went 5.1 innings in Stix’s 3-0 victory over reigning champion Canes National, fanned eight batters and did not surrender a hit in his time on the bump. Deihl was nearly identical in Scorpions’ 6-0 win over Dodgers Prime, recording eight punchouts and allowing zero hits in 5.0 innings of work himself.

The only baserunners allowed by either of the two flamethrowers came in the form of walks, as both gave up two apiece. The similarities continued even beyond the relief of both starters, with both Stix and Scorpions being denied combined no-hit bids thanks to lone one-out singles in the final inning.

Baiotto highlighted how he came out looking to mix his sinker away and tunnel his slider right after it, in particular noting how he wanted to get the sinker in for a first pitch strike before turning to the slider against right-handed batters. For lefties, Baiotto admitted that “it’s honestly just trying to get them out however I can.”

Something he was quite good at doing in Stix’s opening win, with no lefties or righties managing a hit against him.

For Deihl, he gave a lot of credit to Scorpions’ pitching coach Sal Lombardi for helping him lock into from early on, admitting that he wasn’t really feeling his fastball in the bullpen. When asked what changed, that’s where Lombardi came into play.

“I talked to my pitching coach Sal [Lombardi]. He’s great at what he does. He got me to close up my feet a little more, get into my legs…Really got the fastball down in the zone, got the breaker out…Helped me get those K’s early and then ground balls when we needed it with the sinker,” Deihl said.

It wasn’t just before the game, either. The Scorpions’ ace highlighted how he talked with Lombardi constantly to make adjustments and keep him in the right state of mind, which was evident through his unhittable form over five innings.

While both pitchers were feeling good following the wins, they were just as happy about what it meant for their respective teams.

“it was definitely a big win for us, coming out strong against Canes National, they’re known to be a really good team. So, it’s definitely a big confidence boost,” Baiotto said.

For Stix, who is making its 17U Champs North Carolina debut, the win is its first ever at the NTC. Knocking off the reigning champions is a sign that it’s likely going to be the first of many for the 2024 debutants.

Deihl echoed the same sentiment for Scorpions, saying that the win meant a lot for him and his side as they seek to win out and secure a title. If his teammates follow Deihl’s lead the rest of the week in Cary, that goal is certainly a possibility.