Nick Baillargeon rips a two-run double for the Diamond Jacks Super 17U.
By Rich Bevensee
As much as the older high school ballplayers may want to impress college scouts while playing at a showcase events like the Super 17 Invitational Powered by Victus, the flip side of the coin is that these same players are on a diamond for the first time since their high school seasons ended, and they’re just glad to be back.
That’s certainly true for players like Diamond Jacks Super 17U catcher Nick Baillargeon, who noted that because they’re excited to be playing again, that may make it easier to play in front of scouts.
“I was going to a couple of my friends’ travel games, and I had such a bad itch to go out and play, so yeah, it’s really good to be back,” Baillargeon said. “We know a lot of people are watching, but right now we’re just excited to be playing with each other, so the baseball will take care of itself.”
For Baillargeon, those good feelings translated onto the field when the Diamond Jacks defeated Team Francisco Notorious 9 16U Select, 9-1, in six innings on Thursday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Baillargeon, a rising senior at Xavierian in Brooklyn, broke open a one-run game with a two-run double down the left field line in the top of the fourth inning. That blast gave the Diamond Jacks a 4-1 lead.
“My biggest concern after not playing for a few weeks was seeing the velocity again,” Baillargeon said. “I worked a lot on the machine – I turned up the velocity just to get used to it. In 17U there’s gonna be a lot of guys here who can throw pretty well. You can train for a lot of fastballs but then guys start mixing in sliders and start locating, and it sucks sometimes being in the box. But it’s good to be back.”
The Diamond Jacks received a balanced effort from their lineup. All 11 batters reached base, seven players scored at least once, and five drove in at least one run.
One inning after Baillargeon gave the Diamond Jacks some breathing room, they collected four more runs to bring about the mercy rule. Nick Hernandez and Dan Ferguson each had RBI singles, Ferguson scored on a fielding error, and Reymundo Gonzalez added a two-run single.
All that offense was in support of Diamond Jacks starter Jacob Kisselbach and reliever Sean Henry, who combined to limit the Notorious 9 to one run on five hits.
Kisselbach, a rising senior at Phillipsburg, pitched four innings and allowed one run on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Henry pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth with two walks and a strikeout.
“I worked ground balls which turned into outs, that’s why there was only one run, so everything worked pretty well for me,” Kisselbach said. “Making sure they only got weak ground balls, not letting them hit the ball too hard, that’s why we were able to get the outs.”
Kisselbach’s biggest hurdle was the bottom of the second inning when the Diamond Jacks were protecting a 1-0 lead and Team Francisco had two on with one out. After Trevor Miller tied the game with an RBI single, Kisselbach induced A.J. Ferrara into a 6-U-4 double play, when Gonzalez at short stepped on second for the force and threw to first to complete the double play.
“It looked like Jacob settled in after he got that double play,” Diamond Jacks coach Kevin Cust said. “That kind of set the momentum for him. First time out in the summer, and he settled in and did a nice job for us.
“The time off was a factor for all of them. They’re trying to get their feet wet, it’s their first tournament. But we’ll try to get it rolling from here.”
Thomas Cano-Piszel got the Diamond Jacks started in the first inning with an RBI single to right. Then in the bottom half, Matt Kosuda made a statement at third base when Notorious 9 leadoff man Will Irwin hit a scorching grounder to third and Kosuda dove to his left to make the stop, then threw to first from his knees to get the out.
The Diamond Jacks took the lead in the top of the second on an odd play. A pitch from Notorious 9’s Jack Molloy got stuck in the backstop netting and that allowed Cano-Piszel to score from third to give the Diamond Jacks a 2-1 lead.
The Diamond Jacks closed the week 3-1. They defeated East Coast Lumberjacks 2024s, 9-1, and the Bronx Bombers, 4-2. Bellringers 2024 Elkind handed the Diamond Jacks a 12-2 beating, but Cust was pleased to see his team bounce back to end the week with the victory over Team Francisco.
Team Francisco struggled through a winless week. They lost to Diamond Jacks Super 16U, 9-1, East Cobb Patriots, 10-0, and East Coast Lumberjacks 2024s, 11-3.