Out of the wreckage of a one-sided baseball loss as a kid came the moment that re-directed Tom DiGiorgi's athletic career.
"There was a game, I think I was a seventh grader, when we were losing like 20-0 and my dad put me in to pitch," said DiGiorgi, who was then a shortstop, "and I struck everyone out. Ever since then I've been a pitcher. It was football over baseball for me back then but on the mound I was unstoppable, so there was no point in me stopping."
So DiGiorgi went from throwing balls and getting hit on the gridiron to throwing strikes and getting hits on the diamond. It turned out to be the right move.
DiGiorgi, a senior at Half Hollow Hills West, grew to be 6-5 and 220 pounds. His fastball touches 90 and his powerful swing allows his long drives to touch down beyond fences. For his batting feats this season, DiGiorgi Tuesday night was named winner of the Suffolk Silver Slugger Award, given to the best offensive player in the county.
He batted .535 with six home runs and, he said, "high 20s in RBIs" and led the Colts to a 21-6 season that ended with a 5-0 loss to West Islip in the county Class AA championship game.
"We had a really good year. We could've gone all the way," said DiGiorgi, whose season highlights include hitting two long home runs in a victory against East Islip on April 22 and striking out 13 and allowing one hit in a 12-0 win over Huntington on April 3. "Our pitching stayed on top all year but our hitting fell off near the end."
DiGiorgi said he became dominant at the plate as a senior because "I stopped trying to hit home runs and just made contact. I became more of a team player, shot doubles, took walks. I did whatever I had to do."
That included winning four games on the mound, where he hopes to attract major-league scouts while playing at St. Petersburg (Fla.) College, a two-year school with a strong baseball reputation that has had numerous players drafted in recent years. "They want me as a pitcher but the coach knows I can hit and he said maybe they won't DH for me when I pitch," DiGiorgi said.
He's used to giving up one thing for another. "I had to give up football when I realized baseball was my calling," DiGiorgi said. "It'll be rough not to hit in college, but I made the right move becoming a pitcher."