As Diamond Nation’s tournament season opener on July 6 inches closer, we’ll highlight some of the outstanding teams to come through our complex last year in an effort to get your baseball juices flowing. We begin with the 14U Bronx Bombers out of Yonkers, N.Y.
Jayden Asencio rocked a shot over the right fielder’s head to score the winning run in walk-off fashion as the Bronx Bombers defeated Canes Mid-Atlantic, 5-4 in eight innings, in the 14U Easter Extravaganza championship game last April.
The Bombers came crashing out of the gate at the start of the 2019 spring with a 12-1 record and three straight tournament championships. That would be just the start of a huge summer and fall for the outstanding New York-based program. The Bombers’ 14U squad would eventually earn a national ranking of No. 10 and were designated the No. 1 team in the northeast in their age group.
While the Bronx Bombers’ bats had yet to fully unleash, the team’s pitching staff clearly picked up the slack in the early spring last year. Righthander Bryan Santana was named the Easter Extravaganza Most Valuable Player after his outstanding pitching performance in the final. The Bombers allowed just nine runs in their four Easter Extravaganza games and boasted a team ERA below a run over its first 13 games of the spring.
“We expected our hitting to carry us,” said Bombers coach Eric Semler, the head and founder of the Bombers organization. “Our hitting has been flat but we really are a good hitting team. Thankfully our pitchers have been great.” Keith Del Valle is the 14U Bronx Bombers head coach and has been instrumental in the team’s success. That anticipated powerful Bombers hitting attack would indeed come around through a dynamic summer.
The Easter Extravaganza championship game was a seesaw battle between two top programs and the Canes struck first, opening up a 3-0 lead on the Bombers in the top of the first inning. But the top-seeded Bombers rallied for two runs in the third inning and tied the game with a run in the bottom of the sixth. Once the game remained tied through seven innings, the eighth inning was played under the California Tiebreaker Rule. Both teams begin the extra inning with one out and the bases loaded.
The Canes scored a run in the top of the eighth to take a 4-3 lead, but the door was left wide open for the Bombers to deliver the decisive blow.
Mikey Rodriguez stepped in and drew a walk to force home the tying run and perhaps relieve some of the pressure of the moment from the shoulders of Asencio, the Bombers’ catcher. Asencio calmly strutted to the plate and blasted a shot over the right fielder’s head as the winning run trotted home from third base.
“That was a tough final,” said Semler. “The kid they threw was strong. He was throwing hard. Our core group has been together since they were 8 or 9 years old. They play very well together.” And that would continue to be the case. And we are anxious to see this group progress at the 15U level.
The Bronx Bombers’ pitching staff was stubbornly efficient throughout the Easter Extravaganza. James Garcia, who closed out the championship victory, split the team’s pressure-packed 4-2 opening game victory over the PA Shockers with Augusto Del Carmen.
Jeremy Ramirez pitched three perfect innings as the Bombers defeated the North Edison Blue Devils, 15-0, in the second game of pool play. Ramirez, yet another in a deep Bombers staff stacked with sturdy righthanders, threw just 30 pitches in the shortened game, 26 of which were strikes. Ramirez only struck out one batter but proved that filling the zone with strikes and pitching to contact can be quite effective.
Dariel Osoria, who Semler called the biggest clutch player in the tournament, picked up the victory on the mound when the Bombers defeated Warstic Citius Navy, 9-3, in the final game of pool play, to set up the team’s championship round berth.
The 33 runs the Bombers scored in four games certainly indicated some quality hitting, if not by the Bombers high standards. Osoria, Aneudis Mordan, Aidan Cohall, Johnny Robles, and Sam Martinez all were key contributors at the plate, ensuring the team’s hard working mound staff came away with Ws.
Semler and his Bombers coaches continue to pump talent through their program, sending numerous players to Division 1 and lower division schools throughout the nation. A year ago, in fact, Dylan Castaneda, a Michigan commit and still just 17 years old, was selected by the Phillies in the 30th round of the MLB Draft.
The 6-2, 190 Castaneda, a righthander, went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA over 10 innings for the rookie Gulf Coast League Phillies last summer.