Luke Doyle, a rising senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS, jacked a two-run home run for Jersey Boyz.
By Rich Bevensee
The spirit of the great showman P.T. Barnum is alive and well inside Jersey Boyz Baseball director Nico Vargas. Just listen to what Vargas asks of his players when they set foot inside Diamond Nation in Flemington and play before dozens of college recruiters.
“When you’re playing at Diamond Nation, a lot of guys can get lost in terms of showcasing and what’s happening,” Vargas said. “I told them, you guys have to be fun to watch. You have to do something that’s fun to watch.”
There is no question the Jersey Boyz gave fans and scouts in attendance their money’s worth in entertainment. Jared Carlucci and Ray Stein combined for a three-hitter with 15 strikeouts, Joe Haines went 3-for-3 with a triple, and Luke Doyle crushed a solo home run in a 5-2 victory over the TKR Reds 1 of Staten Island, N.Y., in Week 1 of the Super 17 Invitational Powered by Victus at ‘The Nation.’
Carlucci, a 6-4, 190-pound rising senior from Columbia High in Maplewood, had dozens of scouts buzzing at the outset, mixing his mid- to-high 80s fastball with a mid-70s slider and changeup to fan nine batters while yielding one hit and three walks in four scoreless innings.
“It was all fastball, slider, changeup, and a lot more slider than changeup,” Carlucci said. “I use the changeup when the slider is ineffective, but I didn’t feel the need for that today. They really didn’t hit well when I put the slider on the outside corner. I don’t think they put a ball in play on the slider.”
Carlucci has attracted interest from Colonial Athletic Association and Patriot League programs, but hopes to hear from some Big East schools.
Stein, a 6-3, 180-pound rising junior at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, pitched the last three innings for Jersey Boyz and allowed two runs (both unearned) on two hits, two walks, one hit batsman with seven strikeouts.
In the midst of their dominance, neither pitcher’s outing came without hiccups. But they were also quick to get their games back on track.
Against Carlucci, a double by Matt Rao put Reds runners on second and third with one out in the first inning. Carlucci followed a strikeout with a walk to load the bases, then got another strikeout to end the inning.
In the second inning Carlucci began with a strikeout looking, then hit the next two batters. Carlucci corrected himself with a strikeout, and catcher Joe Haines helped the Jersey Boyz escape a second straight jam by picking off a runner at second.
Stein’s biggest jam came in the top of the sixth when he walked the first two batters with the Jersey Boyz protecting a 4-2 lead. Following a mound visit from Vargas, Stein struck out the next two Reds and got a comebacker to end the inning.
“The key is taking deep breaths, especially when Coach comes out. There’s a lot of adrenaline out here,” Stein said. “He said relax, that I know my stuff, and there was a small fix on my fastball grip. Everything worked out because I came out firing.”
“They were really dominant,” said Haines, the Jersey Boyz catcher and a rising senior at St. Peter’s Prep. “They got ahead of hitters early and kept that rolling throughout the game. When they were in trouble they took a walk around the mound and I talked to them a little bit. They’re good pitchers, they have good stuff, they just need to find it again, especially Jared. He hit those two guys then got right back in there and pumped strikes.”
Haines jump-started the offense in the top of the fourth inning when he pulled a hit down the left field line and the ball was misplayed into a two-base error, with Haines ending up on third and Reid Bazydlo and Devin Aiken scoring for a 2-0 lead.
Doyle, the next batter, sent a 305-foot screamer over the left field fence for a two-run home run and a 4-0 cushion.
The Reds cut their deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth when, with two out, Stein got what should have been an inning-ending strikeout. But the pitch was dropped and the ensuing throw sailed into right field, allowing Anthony Davino and Chris Rodriguez to score.
The Jersey Boyz padded their lead in the seventh when Haines crushed a triple into left center and his courtesy runner, Ryan Bevensee, scored on a wild pitch.
“Those guys (Haines and Doyle) have a lot of pop in their bats,” Vargas said. “They had great approaches today. And there’s nothing like watching your catcher chug around the bases.”
It was the first victory of the season for the Jersey Boyz 17U squad, which lost its opener on Monday to Team All-American 17U, 10-2. The Jersey Boyz face TKR Reds 2 on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., and MVP New England 2025s on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
TKR Reds 1 (0-2) will look for their first win when they take on MVP New England 2025s on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. They also play the Sussex County Miners 17U on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. TKR Reds 1 lost its opener, 10-1, to US9 Prospects 24 on Monday.