"I had two strikes on me, so I was looking fastball away and sure enough that's what he threw," Aiello said. "I just went with it."
Aiello is no stranger to stepping up in crucial situations. The 6-2, 180-pound freshman was able to make his mark on Germantown Academy's varsity team and represent his league in the Carpenter Cup, but Aiello's greatest accomplishments have been on the international level. Last summer, he competed for the United States in the Pan Am 14U Championship in Venezuela, where Aiello and the Americans took home the gold medal. Aiello started two of Team USA's eight victories, playing in the outfield (though he is primarily a shortstop) and driving in two runs.
With weeks of training and international competition under his belt, Aiello's successes this season should come as no surprise. With experience well beyond his years, his poise at the plate sets him apart from the average high school freshman.
In his next at-bat, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Aiello was the first to face hard-throwing righthander Hunter Absher. Though his team was down a run and he was eager to bring home the runner on second base, Aiello remained patient, watching four errant pitches go by and taking a free pass.
"I was just trying to see it in the zone and get the barrel out," Aiello said. "But he was wild, so I kept waiting for a pitch to hit. Turns out it never came."
After Aiello scored on a single by Malvern Prep's Mike DeMatteis, Episcopal Academy's Jay Farrell hit a two-run double to seal the victory.
Gold medalist or not, Aiello is still learning about facing top high school competition stateside. It is a process he has come to embrace. Last summer, he learned from his coaches on the national team, but this time around he enjoys the opportunity to learn lessons from his Carpenter Cup teammates.
"There's a lot of good kids on these teams," Aiello said. "I love to learn from what they're doing, specifically from watching how they pick themselves up after they make mistakes."
His team's first-round matchup was surely a valuable learning experience for Aiello, as there was no shortage of mistakes. The teams combined for a total of nine errors, one of which was credited to Aiello when he misjudged a well-struck ball in centerfield. Twelve of the game's 23 runs were unearned.
The Inter-Ac/Independents were cruising in the early going, jumping to a 7-0 lead by the fourth inning. Malvern Prep pitcher Joe Ravert allowed just two hits in three scoreless innings. Delaware South stormed back with a six-run fifth inning, tying the game in the sixth on a double by Milford's Dylan Sammons.
Delaware South was able to take the lead in the seventh inning before Aiello and the Inter-Ac/Independents posted a three-spot in the bottom of the eighth. Malvern Prep's John Durkee pitched the ninth and earned the save.
The Inter-Ac/Independents face Lehigh Valley Friday morning at Richie Ashburn Field. Lehigh Valley defeated Mercer County, 12-3.