Anthony DeNora supplied a first-inning RBI single for Diamond Jacks Super 16U.
By Rich Bevensee
Coaches understand it’s easy to ask their hitters to hit the ball where it’s pitched, but Jayden Capindica may have a better understanding of this mantra more than most ballplayers.
His knack for covering the plate allowed Diamond Jacks Super 16U to kick-start their wood bat tournament weekend with a victory.
Capindica blasted an opposite-field, RBI triple to tie the game and scored the winning run with a clever slide at home, all in the top of the sixth inning, to give the Diamond Jacks a 4-3 triumph over the Powerballers on the first day of pool play at the 17/18U Wood Bat Championship on Friday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
The Diamond Jacks trailed 3-2 when Capindica came up in the sixth with one out. He sliced a 1-2 pitch into the left field corner to earn a stand-up triple and drive in Henry Ayers with the tying run.
“On my last at bat I struck out looking on a fastball away, so the next time I was sitting on the fastball,” said Capindica, a lefty-hitting sophomore at Immaculata. “I wouldn’t say I’m a contact hitter but I’d say I’m consistent. I can put the ball in play where it’s pitched. In that situation – down by one, runner on third, one out – you gotta put the ball in play. It was about not trying to do too much and be simple. Get the run in.”
Capindica was one of Immaculata’s leading hitters last spring when he batted .303 (23 for 76) with a team best 21 RBI. He also had a team-leading three triples and tied for the team lead with 16 runs scored. One of those triples was a walk-off, three-run job that won the NJSIAA sectional championship against Gill-St. Bernards and sent Immaculata to the NP-B state championship game.
Obviously the young ballplayer has a knack for what to do at the plate.
“I like the opposite field a lot,” said the 6-2, 175-pound center fielder. “I like to extend my hands and hit the ball the other way. I’d say I have a decent amount of power going the other way.”
The next batter, Jayden Rosado, followed Capindica’s triple by hitting a slow chopper to short. Capindica broke for the plate on contact and, with the Powerballers infield playing in, shortstop JonCarlo Spinosa fired a perfect strike home. The ball and Capindica arrived at the same time but Capindica beat the tag and the Diamond Jacks had the lead.
“I’d say I had a pretty good jump,” Capindica said. “I read it right off the bat. It was going into the ground so I was running as hard as I could. The bat was on the plate and I didn’t know how to get over the bat, but I tried sliding on the outside and got my hand in there. I thought I got there at the same time as the ball but I definitely got in there.”
Diamond Jacks coach Travis Anderson, in his 17th year with the Flemington program after playing in the Atlanta Braves organization and with the then-independent Somerset Patriots, said he’s been preaching to the team about being aggressive on the basepaths. That’s why Capindica was running on contact regardless of where Rosado hit the ball.
“The kid (Spinosa) made a good play, he made a good throw, but we have to put pressure on people somewhere,” Anderson said. “It’s a mentality where we’re trying to put them on their heels big time. Even with the infield in, if we can execute and don’t hesitate, I’ll take that more times than not.”
Capindica would not have been in position to provide the offensive heroics were it not for terrific pitching performances from Jared Levine and Drew Tenet.
Levine surrendered three runs – two earned – on two hits and a walk in the first inning as the Bangor, Pa.-based Powerballers took a 3-2 lead. One of those hits was a misjudged fly ball, and the outfield also committed an error.
“I even think Jared threw the ball well in the first inning, but we made two big mistakes in the outfield,” Anderson said. “And I told him (Levine) you gotta’ do a better job, you can’t give up three there. It’s as simple as that, and I said it in front of everybody. I told him you’re in a situation, now you gotta’ bear down and figure it out and make the pitches. The balls were hit okay and the plays should have been made, but you gotta’ get yourself out of the hole. Sometimes you have to be the man.”
Levine, a sophomore at Newark Academy, was sterling in his next two innings, holding the Powerballers scoreless on a walk with two strikeouts.
“Everyone just had to settle down after the first inning,” Capindica said. “After the first inning Jared was lights out.”
“In the second inning he attacked the zone a bit more,” Anderson said. “He was playing around early in the game. He’s not a kid who can go three balls. We gotta get contact early, and when they’re hitting a lot of foul balls off him, that’s not good. We gotta get those balls put in play.
“But after the first inning, I thought our pitching was dynamite.”
Tenet, a sophomore at Shawnee in his first season with the Diamond Jacks, was even more stubborn than Levine. He pitched four scoreless innings in relief while allowing just two hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
Tenet faced a jam in the fifth, with runners on first and second with one out, but he induced a fielder’s choice and got a strikeout to end the inning.
“I thought Jared and Drew were a lot of fun to watch tonight,” Anderson said.
The Diamond Jacks were the first to light up the scoreboard, getting two across in the top of the first inning. Anthony DeNora stroked an RBI single through the middle to score Soren Gregor, and Will Mahala scored from third when Henry Ayers reached on an infield error with one out.
The Powerballers countered with three in the bottom of the first. Spinosa singled and scored on a Grimaldi Gonzalez groundout. Dylan Fosko reached on an error and scored on Brandon DeLaRosa’s triple to dead center. DeLaRosa scored the go-ahead run when the next batter, Evan Kovalcik, lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
Powerballer starter Jared Diefenbach was nearly as stubborn as the Diamond Jacks pitchers. After allowing two runs in the first, Diefenbach faced just three batters over the minimum over the next four innings while holding the Diamond Jacks scoreless on three hits.
After yielding Capindica’s triple in the sixth, Diefenbach was lifted in favor of Dylan Fosko, who pitched 1⅔ scoreless innings on one hit (a seventh-inning triple by Jake Yang) with one strikeout.
The Diamond Jacks swept their Friday night doubleheader with a 6-1 win over the Bell Ringers. The D-Jacks will finish pool play by facing the 9ers Baseball Club on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
The Powerballers lost another one-run decision on Friday night, following up the loss to the Diamond Jacks by getting trimmed 10-9 by the 9ers Baseball Club. The Powerballers will take on the Bell Ringers on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.