By Bob Behre
Myles Vasquez pitched four strong innings of relief as the Brooklyn Bonnie Paws held off a late Crossbridge Raiders rally on the way to an entertaining 4-3 victory in the 14U King of the Diamond championship game on Sunday night at Diamond Nation.
Righthander Jonathan Larrea came in with runners on second and third and two outs and induced a grounder to shortstop Antonio Pena, who made an outstanding play to barely get Ryan DiMaggio at first to end the game. Pena had to range into the hole, backhand the ball and fire to first to get DiMaggio on a bang-bang play.
Pena opened the game by pitching two scoreless innings as he struck out five with an electric fastball and walked two before giving way to Vasquez. While the Bonnie Paws were building a 4-1 lead through six innings, Vasquez limited Crossbridge to two runs on four hits, struck out two and walk three over four-plus innings.
Vasquez was named the 14U King of the Diamond Most Valuable Player for his outstanding performance.
But Crossbridge, which boasts a talented team made up of players from both sides of the Delaware River, rallied in the top of the seventh inning to put Brooklyn’s championship bid at risk.
Colin Cross drew a leadoff walk against Vasquez, forcing Bonnie Paws coach Michael Joseph to immediately go to his bullpen. Dylan Hildabrands followed with an infield hit in the shortstop hole. Reliever Arjun Joseph then induced a groundout and struck out the next batter to get Brooklyn an out away from the championship. Joseph then walked leadoff batter Jack Kraemer to load the bases.
Joseph appeared to extricate himself from the rall unscathed when Charlie Chropuvka lifted a fly ball to shallow left field. The left fielder, charging in, got his glove on the ball but couldn’t hold on as Cross and Colin Myers scored to shave the deficit to 4-3. Coach Joseph then called on Larrea, who barely escaped, with help from his teammate Pena, to give his team the championship.
“Our guys played well,” said coach Joseph. “It was a team effort. We had a lot of key hits in pool play when our bats really carried us. But it was defense and pitching that won it for us in the playoffs. We had six or seven guys who really did a good job.”
Brooklyn reached Crossbridge’s starter, the righty Kraemer, on Arjun Joseph’s RBI single to right-center field in the bottom of the first. But Kraemer got out of further trouble in the inning despite surrendering three walks and two hits. The Bonnie Paws extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth after Kraemer allowed a single to Johnny Ortiz (2-for-3) and walked Daniel King to start the inning. Larrea drew a bases loaded walk to force home Ortiz and King scored when Vasquez hit into a double play.
Crossbridge got on the board in the top of the fifth on Kraemer’s sac fly. Hildebrands reached on an infield single, advanced to second on Colin Myers’ walk, moved to third on Elliott Puckett’s fielder’s choice grounder and scored on Kraemer’s fly to right field.
Pena extended the Brooklyn lead to 4-1 in the fifth almost single handedly. He drew a leadoff walk, stole second and third and scored on an infield error.
The Bonnie Paws went 5-0 in the tournament and outscored their opponents 58-16. It edged the Diamond Jacks Gold 14U, 9-8, in the semifinals. Crossbridge was 4-1 and held a 54-18 edge on its opponents.
The Diamond Jacks Super 13U rallied for three runs in the seventh to tie Valley Baseball, 4-4, and scored a run in the eighth to win, 5-4, in capture the 13U King of the Diamond championship. Lefthander Nick Losada, who picked up the victory in the final with an outstanding effort in relief, was named the 13U tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The South Jersey Young Guns put forth a dominating performance on their way to 12U King of the Diamond title. The Young Guns went 5-0 and outscored their opponents 60-11. The Young Guns’ Miguel Herb was named the 12U tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Diamond Jacks Super 11U nailed down the 11U championship in an 11-3 victory over the Morris County Cubs in the final. The 4-0 Diamond Jacks held a 45-17 advantage in runs over its opponents. The Super 11U’s Yadi Mateo’s outstanding effort earned him the 11U tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
South Jersey Elite Orange ran the table in the 10U field, posting a 5-0 record while outscoring its opponents 67-19. The South Jersey squad defeated Hit Brigade, 11-3, in the championship game. The South Jersey team’s Brett Jackson was named the 10U tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Next Level Riversox (2-2, 37-29) shutout South Jersey Elite Orange then nipped Sandlot Baseball Academy, 10-7, to secure the 9U King of the Diamond title. Jake Howe was named the 9U King of the Diamond Most Valuable Player.