All Stars Academy does its name proud in Super 12 title game

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 11, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

After a draining weekend of wall-to-wall baseball, Gregg Kelly was dreading the three-hour drive home from Flemington, N.J., to Latham, N.Y., a small hamlet north of Albany in upstate New York. But maybe the shiny new trophy he packed into his car will help him at least forget his gas tank expenses. 

Kelly and his coaching staff built the All-Stars Academy 12U team last fall with the goal of assembling their area’s best baseball players and entering a few tournaments before breaking up the squad to focus on district commitments this summer.

The 12U All-Stars far exceeded the staff’s expectations, winning both of the tournaments they entered, both at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

On Sunday in their final contest together, the All-Stars received superb pitching from Parker Newlove, brilliant defense from shortstop Grayson Galusha, and a balanced offensive effort which produced an 8-0 victory over previously unbeaten Dodgers Nation-Byrnes in the Super 12 Invitational championship game at ‘The Nation.’

It was a bittersweet day for the All-Stars, winning their final game together but knowing that the team will cease to exist when they get home.

“We’re really a community team – all the players live within 25 miles in all directions. It’s not a huge area but there’s a lot of talent,” Kelly said. “This is our last tournament together. We know a lot of these kids from our community teams. We’ll break up now for districts and states for All-Stars and then we’ll try out again in August.”

It was the All-Stars’ second Diamond Nation title in as many trips to the River Road baseball complex. They won the April Fools title on April 7. 

“We played two tournaments, both at Diamond Nation, and we won both –  and this is a hard place to win,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of talent here from top to bottom and Diamond Nation does such a great job with the pools and great balance of teams.”

Newlove pitched a three-hit shutout and drove in three runs in the championship game to earn Most Valuable Player honors. On Saturday he also smacked a home run and pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings in the team’s opening pool win against North Shore Giants-Fiordalisi, 9-3. 

“It’s been a lot of fun. I definitely want to come back to Diamond Nation,” Newlove said. “I’m gonna miss this group because it’s been fun playing with them.”

“Parker is a quiet leader who usually gets to these games and knows he has to perform huge,” Kelly said. “He’s a four hitter and played every inning of every game, at third, first, pitcher, just great baseball all day long, all weekend long.”

Kelly said Galusha knew that current New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe played at Diamond Nation as a member of the Diamond Jacks, and the 12-year-old shortstop played like a miniature version of the American League Gold Glover. He was not only errorless in six chances, he looked smooth and comfortable every time, no matter how challenging. 

“I take pride in my defense – I’ve worked on it a lot,” Galusha said. “Defense is important because if you’re not a good hitter and you’re a good defensive player, then you can play.”

“Grayson is a smart player and he knows what’s going on,” Kelly said. “He knows that Anthony Volpe played shortstop here, and he models him. He moves from left to right, in and out. He’s got a great arm and he’s fun to watch.”

The All-Stars’ 5-0 weekend put the finishing touches on a 10-0 showing at Diamond Nation this spring. Their Super 12 showing included wins over North Shore Giants-Fiordalisi, 9-3, the New Jersey Renegades, 13-3, and Hustle Baseball,12-4, in pool play before dispatching Royals Baseball, 11-4, in the semifinals. 

For the All-Stars in the championship game, Gavin West went 3-for-4 with a double, Galusha had three hits, Diego Scotland went 2-for-4 with an RBI, Jude Miller had a pair of hits and drove in a run, Newlove doubled and had three RBI, and Trevor Yates had an RBI single.

No. 10 hitter Connor Day had one of the most satisfying at bats for the All-Stars. He was visibly frustrated with himself after striking out in the second inning, but in his next at bat in the fourth, he slammed an 0-1 pitch over the left field fence for a line drive, solo home run.

Parker Newlove of All Stars Academy was named the Super 12 Invitational MVP.

Just as satisfying for Kelly and the All-Stars, every single batter in the lineup had at least one base hit. That feat was accomplished when No. 9 hitter Joey Lichten singled in the fifth. 

“I am so proud of them,” Kelly said. “We hit from top to bottom and we hit it hard. It’s great to watch these kids. They fight every game inside and out. At 12 years old, kids are still emotional, so that success and that pressure everyone feels to perform is a real thing. Since everyone had a taste of that, it makes things that much better.”

On the defensive side, Newlove was rarely challenged. He yielded three hits and two walks and struck out four. 

The only runner to reach scoring position against Newlove was erased in the second inning. Third baseman Yates snared a Matt Neumann line drive and flipped to Galusha who doubled up Brendan Magill at second for a smooth double play. 

Magill, who singled twice, and Mason Hemraj were the only Dodgers to get a base hit off Newlove, who used a mix of his fastball, curveball and changeup with equal measure. His shutout was that much more commendable when taking into account that he shut out a team which scored 55 runs in its previous four games. 

“I started throwing off-speed stuff last year but because I wasn’t used to it, it was really hard,” Newlove said. “I found grips and I practiced it, and I’m really comfortable with it now. I’ll throw off-speed in any count.”

The Dodgers, from Long Island, N.Y., completed a commendable 4-1 weekend with wins over Elite Squad N.Y., 15-0, Flood City Elite, 14-1, and Diamond Jacks Super 12U, 12-9, in pool play, and the Locked In Baseball Expos, 14-3, in the semifinals. 

In the Dodgers’ only other appearance at ‘The Nation’ this spring, they were named co-champions of the King Of The Diamond tournament after going 4-0 before the championship game was rained out.

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