Central Jersey All-Stars unite to take 15U Memorial Day title

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 30, 2023

An All-Star team cobbled together at the last minute produced a 15U championship.

By Sean Reilly 

Liam Velit loves to play baseball, so when he received a phone call on Saturday morning asking if he wanted to immediately play in a tournament at Diamond Nation, he jumped at the opportunity.

The call was from a coach putting together the Central Jersey All-Stars, a team cobbled together in the days leading up to the 15U Memorial Day Blast tournament.

With high school seasons winding down and the summer campaign yet to kick in, the event was the first 15U tourney of the year at ‘The Nation.’

The All-Stars were just that, a group where most of the players knew only a few of their teammates leading into their first game, which they lost.

As they became more familiar with each other, their cohesion and overall play kept getting better.

The capper came on Monday afternoon, when the All-Stars beat Tri State Arsenal 2026 South, 13-4, to win the tournament.

Fittingly, the team’s final inning of the weekend was also its best – a nine-run top of the sixth which snapped a 4-4 tie.

And to make it even more appropriate, the victory was also over the same Arsenal team it lost to, 6-1, in its first game together on Saturday.

Velit, who was 1-for-2 with a hit by pitch, walk, and three RBI in the final, was named tournament’s MVP and earned the accompanying commemorative Victus bat.

Velit, who competes for Northern Burlington High School and regularly plays travel ball for USA Prime, was very glad to be at Diamond Nation this weekend.

“I got a call Saturday morning,” he said. “If I wasn’t here today, I’d probably be home sleeping. We all just bonded, especially at the cages. I knew three of the guys before this.”

Getting a chance to play some extra and competitive games was why the team was at ‘The Nation’ over the weekend. Winning the championship was a true bonus.

“We like to try to get kids extra games, and we had a chance to do that this weekend,” All-Stars coach Joe Stables said. “Every one of these kids likes to play baseball whenever they can, and they’re all nice kids. They have high baseball IQ’s, they communicate, and every kid, whenever you ask them to play in the field somewhere, or hit in the lineup somewhere, they’re good with it, and they all helped each other out, which was all nice to see.”

Liam Velit of the Central Jersey All-Stars with the special Victus bat he earned as tournament MVP.

Other than their assortment of uniforms while on the field, it was hard to tell that the players hadn’t been together for an extended period of time. The communication was on point, and the infield even turned two sharp double plays to get out trouble in the first and second innings in support of Tyler DeCastro, who allowed no earned runs while pitching the first three innings.

The Arsenal held a 1-0 lead heading into the third, but the All-Stars countered with a four-run inning, getting a sacrifice fly from Devon Decker, a two-run double to left center by Velit, and an RBI base hit from Max Kleinz.

The Arsenal used RBI singles from Cayden Allen, Colin Klepacz and Quinn Gagner to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth.

Then came the top of the sixth, when the All-Stars saved their best for last by sending 15 to the plate while scoring nine runs.

Decker lined a two-run double down the left field line for a 6-4 lead, which was followed by an RBI single from Mike Schiermeyer and an RBI groundout from Velit for an 8-4 lead. Dylan Stables (3-for-4) singled in the next run, Jared Klingmeyer and Alex Mikita drew bases-loaded walks, Noah Francisco singled in a run and Shia Trinidad also walked with the bases full.

By the time the game was over, eight of the 10 All-Stars had at least one hit, and all scored at least once.

“We kept rolling, listened to each other, and we kept getting better,” Velit said. “We were playing baseball, and having fun.”

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