By Rich Bevensee
It’s a short trip from the dugout to the batter’s box, but in that time Liano Bisceglia couldn’t escape the stream of motivational tidbits before one of the biggest at bats of his young career.
New Jersey Renegades coach Gary Portman reminded Bisceglia how he crushes batting practice at his team’s facility in Riverdale. There was the bet from assistant coach Jon Ramos – it was more of a threat – that if Bisceglia didn’t go deep when the team needed it most, he would be running laps at the next practice.
On top of all that, Portman lowered the boom, reminding him that the Fall Classic 12U championship hung in the balance.
Bisceglia responded as his coaches had hoped. He crushed the third pitch he saw for a walk-off two-run home run, delivering a 5-4 victory over Warriors Baseball PA Black in the Fall Classic title game on Sunday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“I stood and watched it go over because I couldn’t believe I hit a walk-off,” said Bisceglia, who launched 10 home runs as an 11U player this summer. “And my heart started pumping really fast, so yeah, it felt really good.”
His first homer in a 12U contest was his first career walk-off shot, a 2-0 offering which sailed 230 feet over the right center field fence and just missed landing on the roof of the batting cage adjacent to the outfield wall.
“I just wanted to hit the ball,” said Bisceglia, who came to bat after Vihaan Garg drew a leadoff walk. “Everyone was really loud and there was a lot of pressure. Coach Ramos made a bet with me that if I don’t hit a home run I have to run in practice. And Coach Gary reminded me that I hit home runs in batting practice. So it felt good to do that.”
Bisceglia capped a 3-for-3 night with his game winning shot, collecting a double and RBI single before his final at bat, and accounted for the Renegades’ only extra base hits. In fact, Bisceglia was the only player in the game with multiple hits.
“He’s hit some moonshots off me in batting practice, so I told him right before, ‘Riverdale swing,’” Portman said. “I told him he’s most likely going to see an outside pitch, because who would pitch him inside? He’s got tremendous power for a 12-year old. He’s starting to develop his approach and when he gets older he’s gonna be dangerous.”
Bisceglia’s homer capped a thrilling game which featured a bevy of clutch hitting, opportunistic baserunning and four lead changes.
Portman said he figured the title game would be a tight one, considering what he had heard about the Warriors.
“We knew about that team from a couple weeks ago,” Portman said. “We thought we were going to play them that weekend, but they lost to the Diamond Jacks Supers in the semis. They play the game the right way, nice coaching staff, nice bunch of players. Tonight was just a good old fashioned baseball game.”
The Warriors, who twice came from behind in the final, erased a 3-2 deficit in the top of the fifth inning when Jacob Borneman singled through the middle and drove in the tying run in Chris Ramont, who beat an outstanding throw to the plate by Renegades center fielder Gavin Neigel.
The Warriors added the go-ahead run in the sixth when Liam Sherwood raced home from second on an infield throwing error.
The Renegades were faced with coming from behind for the second time in the game.
“We’ve been together with this core of players for nine or 10 years now, and we don’t have a lot of turnover,” Portman said. “We spend a lot of time together, play a lot of games. There’s been a lot of competitive environments and we don’t shy away from it.”
Chase Wagner was responsible for helping the Renegades recover from a 2-1 deficit in the fourth inning, when he drove in a run with an infield single and later scored from second base on an infield error to give his team a 3-2 lead.
In pool play, the Renegades knocked off Diamond Jacks 12U Gold, 14-7, the Carteret Nighthawks, 13-2, and the Locked In Expos, 3-1.
Liano Bisceglia hit a two-run walk-off HR to give the NJ Renegades the 12U Fall Classic title.
Cohen Stanley and Sean Bradley both doubled for the Warriors, while Borneman and Chase Keefer each drove in a run. Borneman (four innings) and Zach Taylor (two innings) pitched well in the loss.
The Warriors also turned in the web gem of the day with some crisp throwing in the bottom of the third inning. The game was still scoreless when Garg singled to right and William Klesitz tried scoring from second base. Warriors right fielder Ryan MacNamee’s throw to third baseman Chris Ramont was late in getting Klesitz, but Ramont’s throw home to catcher Sean Bradley was in time to nab Klesitz at the plate.
“We had a really great weekend,” Warriors coach Geoff Ramont said. “We knew we had a really tough draw, and that’s what we want, to play the best competition we can play. The boys battled all the way through pool play undefeated. We played one of the top teams in New Jersey and battled all the way to the end. I could not be more proud of them.”
The Warriors defeated Bucks County Generals 12U Black, 3-2, Bethpage Eagles 12U-Romano, 5-3, and Diamond Jacks Super 12U in pool play.