Smaldino’s Walk-Off Sac Fly Leads JSerra Catholic Into Second Round

Lions advance to first-ever NHSI quarterfinal
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Houston County 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 3
JSerra Catholic 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 4 8 2

BOX SCORE - PLAYS - CUMULATIVES: Houston County | JSerra Catholic

CARY, N.C. – Dominic Smaldino hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to lead JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, California) past Houston County (Warner Robins, Ga.), 4-3, in the opening round of the 2023 National High School Invitational (NHSI) presented by the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

The win puts the Lions in the NHSI quarterfinal for the first time in their second tournament appearance.

After falling into a quick 3-0 hole in the first, JSerra (1-0) scored a run in each of the first three innings and entered the bottom of the seventh locked in a 3-3 tie. Two singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Smaldino, whose fly ball into foul territory was caught to bring home Ryusei Fujiwara for the winning run.

The Lions’ offense was paced by Trent Caraway (2-for-4), who had two hits, a stolen base, and a run scored. Fujiwara (1-for-4) scored a game-high two runs, including the winning run in the bottom of the seventh**. Jonathan Mendez** (1-for-2), Smaldino (1-for-3), and Dmitri Susidko (1-for-3) all drove in runs for JSerra. Houston County (0-1) mustered just three hits in the contest. Drew Burress, Kai Decker, and Anthony Dunford had the knocks for the Bears, who also drew three walks.

Josh Hollis (1-0) was lights-out in relief for JSerra, pitching five innings of two-hit ball to earn the win. Hollis struck out two batters and walked just one in his five shutout frames. Ryker Chavis got the start for Houston County and weathered some early trouble to pitch six solid innings, allowing three runs on six hits. The southpaw struck out six batters in the outing. Houston County’s Landon Tankersley (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing the winning run in his 0.2 innings on the mound.


  • Houston County came out of the gates firing in the top of the first, drawing two walks before Anthony Dunford hit an opposite-field double to put Houston County in front by a run before recording an out.
  • Kai Decker made it a two-run lead for Houston County with a towering sac fly and Anthony Dunford later scored on an error as the Houston County lead became 3-0 in the top of the first.
  • JSerra scratched a run across in the bottom of the first on a two-out RBI-double by Jonathan Mendez, who blooped a full-count pitch into right field to trim the JSerra deficit to 3-1.
  • JSerra’s Dmitri Susidko perfectly executed a squeeze bunt in the bottom of the second to plate Tyler Dunning and get JSerra within a run at 3-2.
  • Trent Caraway used heads-up baserunning to tie the game at three for JSerra, scoring a run as his teammate got picked off first base.
  • JSerra had a chance to take a lead when Tyler Dunning led off with a single and reached third with one out in the bottom of the fourth, but Houston County’s Ryker Chavis notched a strikeout and groundout to halt the threat and keep the game tied.
  • Ryker Chavis again picked up a massive strikeout to escape a jam in the bottom of the fifth, stranding the go-ahead run just 90 feet away and maintaining the tie score.
  • Singles by Ryusei Fujiwara and Trent Caraway and an intentional walk loaded the bases for JSerra in the bottom of the seventh, and Dominic Smaldino delivered with a walk-off sacrifice fly to give the Lions a 4-3 win.


  • JSerra’s Brandon Chang had two of the team’s five stolen bases. Trent Caraway, Tyler Dunning, and Dmitri Susidko also swiped bags for the Lions.
  • Josh Hollis pitched an economical five innings for JSerra, needing just 54 pitches to get through five frames.
  • JSerra had eight hits from seven different players in the win.
  • Ryker Chavis was clutch in several big moments throughout the contest, allowing baserunners to reach in five of his six innings but only permitting three to cross home plate.
  • JSerra improves to 5-1 all-time at the NHSI and 1-1 in tournament openers.


JSerra advances to the NHSI quarterfinal against Brother Rice (Chicago, Illinois) on Thursday. Houston County will take on Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.) in consolation play.

All games of the 2023 NHSI will be streamed on USABaseball.TV and @USABaseballTV on YouTube.


Stay tuned with all of the action at the 2023 National High School Invitational by following @USABEvents on Twitter and @USABaseball on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Fans and media can use #NHSI23 in their posts.