9ers Black 18U outlasts DJacks 17U with late Scout League rally

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 12, 2023

Joey Peacock’s double down the left field line in the sixth gave the 9ers a 5-4 lead.

By Rich Bevensee

It was uncanny how, for five innings, 9ers Baseball Club Black and Diamond Jacks 17U mirrored each other offensively, trading punch for counterpunch.

One scores in the top of the inning, and the tying run crosses in the bottom of the frame. It went on like that for five innings until, with the game clock winding down, the 9ers developed some momentum.

Alex Weingartner’s opposite field triple kicked off a one-out rally, which included five straight hits and back-to-back RBI singles by Tyler McLeod and Mike Kaczynski, and the 9ers were on their way to an 11-4 victory in a Garden State Scout League game on Wednesday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Luke Dowd, a Manasquan senior, led the 9ers by going 2-for-3 with a two-run double. 

“Energy feeds off one one another,” Dowd said. “When someone starts to bring it, that starts the team to pick up hits, and all the sudden it’s one after another.”

The 9ers chalked up their best offensive output of the season thus far and improved to 2-2 in the league. The Diamond Jacks lost their third straight and fell to 1-3. 

The 9ers and Diamond Jacks both scored single runs in the first and fourth innings. The 9ers took their third lead of the game, 4-2, with two runs in the top of the fifth, and the Diamond Jacks countered with two of their own. 

The sixth inning was the first time the 9ers notched consecutive hits in an inning. Joey Peacock’s RBI double drove in Weingartner and gave the 9ers the lead for good at 5-4. A Rory Fnn base hit was followed by back-to-back RBI singles by McLeon and Kaczynski.

After a walk and a strikeout, Brady Lesniak had an RBI double and Dowd added a run-scoring single.

“They got to their third at bats of the game and they were able to start stringing together some hits,” 9ers coach Nick Belka said. “They started seeing the ball a little bit better, started to understand the strike zone a little better. We were able to put a plan together and attack it.”

The 9ers received some great starting pitching from Lesniak, a 5-9, 185-pound right-handed senior from Southern Regional who’s committed to Binghamton. Lesniak relied on his mid-80s fastball and low-70s slider to hold the Diamond Jacks to two runs on three hits and no walks in his four innings of work. He also struck out three.

Alex Weingartner tripled and scored to spark the 9ers’ seven-run sixth inning.

“I threw mostly my two-seam fastball and threw a couple sliders in there and some changeups, but mostly the fastball to challenge them,” Lesniak said. “I can locate my fastball pretty well but sometimes the slider gets away or the changeup hangs like it did today, and sometimes they hit it so I focus more on locating those.”

Only once did Lesniak allow two base hits in an inning, when Diamond Jacks got consecutive doubles by Brian Quabeck and Jesse Allen to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth.

Braeden Hoiberg came on to pitch the fifth but left after three batters due to a leg injury. Kaczynski picked up the slack, allowing a walk before setting the side down in order with a fly ball and two strikeouts. McLeod pitched a scoreless sixth. 

The Diamond Jacks received solid pitching as well through five innings. 

Will Macken, a junior at Immaculata, pitched two innings and allowed one run on one hit and struck out three. Ryan Ciesla, a junior at Somerville, permitted one run on three hits and struck out two in his two innings of work. Lefty John Palermo, a junior at Gov. Livingston, yielded two runs on three hits with one strikeout in an inning of work. 

Peacock, a junior at St. Augustine Prep, got the 9ers started in the first inning when he singled, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and took home on another wild pitch.

The Diamond Jacks tied it up immediately in the bottom of the first with an RBI single by Luke Haan, a Princeton Day junior.

In the fourth, Rory Finn got the lead back for the 9ers with an RBI single, but Allen tied it for the Diamond Jacks with an RBI double to left. 

In the fifth, the 9ers scored twice for a 4-2 lead when Dowd doubled down the left field line. Ciesla copied that move for the Diamond Jacks, ripping an opposite field, two-run double to right.

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