Benito Santiago's Niece Strikes Out 19 Boys In Six-Inning Little League Championship Game

Another parent calls her the "Michael Jordan" of Syracuse N.Y.'s Southside American Little League. She can fire a fastball more than 60 miles per hour, and she mixes in a cutter, slider, and change-up. She also plays shortstop, and her own batting average is higher than .600. For games, she wears her hair in something she calls "Big Mama's ponytail."

Her name is Nadia Diaz, she's 11 years old, and baseball's kind of her family's business: Her uncle is Benito Santiago, her second-cousin is journeyman former MLB pitcher Nelson Figueroa, and her father, Jose, used to play at the Double-A level.

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Nadia struck out 19 batters in a 1-0 win during Saturday's six-inning division title game. Nadia did give up two hits and a walk, but she struck out everyone else, with one of her strikeout victims reaching base because the catcher dropped a third strike. Here's more, from the Post-Standard:

John Boyle has a son in the league and also helps coach. He called Nadia the "Michael Jordan" of the Southside American Little League. Her baseball abilities, he said, are "unreal," and she has changed the way the boys in the organization treat her or look at her game.

"My 11-year-old son, Jed, had the best comment about her, saying, 'If someone tells you that you throw like a girl at Southside, we take it as a compliment,'" Boyle said.

John Sardino, the coach of the team Nadia notched her 19 strikeouts against, indicated just how much respect there is for Nadia among her peers:

Sardino remembered an incident in which some boys at the park were teasing another child who had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism in which individuals experience problems in social interaction. Sardino's own son told the boys to knock it off. They didn't. When Nadia intervened, the teasing ceased.

Nadia, meanwhile, relishes the idea of having earned that respect:

She said she was shy at first, but after proving her ability, all of that went away. She now feels part of a family and loves the camaraderie, including the postgame trips to Gannon's for ice cream.

"It's fun," she said, "because the boys, sometimes, they think they're all that. But when I go up there and pitch, they go, whooo. It's a funny reaction."

Nadia's setting her sights high: She's training to pass a series of tests so she can play for a modified team at a local high school next year. Softball? "Too girly," she says.

[Syracuse Post-Standard]