Defensive gems carry Double Major to 12U Halloween Mash championship

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 30, 2023

By Sean Reilly

The final out in the Diamond Nation 12U Halloween Mash couldn’t have been recorded in more fitting fashion.

Double Major was clinging to a one-run lead over the Diamond Jacks Super 12U. There were two outs in the top of the sixth inning, with the tying run on third base.

A slow grounder was hit along the third base line, with Double Major pitcher Gabe Garcia charging toward the ball. He fielded it, turned and fired a throw toward first baseman Joseph Sarrubbo.

With the runner now heading toward home and the batter racing toward first, the ball arrived in Sarrubbo’s glove just in time for the clinching out in a 5-4 victory.

Defense was a huge factor for the Central Jersey-based Double Major, which went 4-0 on the weekend.

Not only had Double Major turned double plays in three of the prior five innings, Garcia also made a huge play by picking off a runner at second base.

Garcia, who was selected the tournament co-MVP along with Sarrubbo, pitched a complete game. He allowed seven hits, with three strikeouts and three walks.

“Our defense was a huge factor,” Garcia said. “This was a great way to end our season.”

Sarrubbo, who was 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBI, also turned one of the double plays in unassisted fashion, when he snared a hit-and-run line drive at first base.

“We work well together, which helps us on defense,” Sarrubbo said. “Having good defense, along with good offense, helps you win baseball games.”

The Diamond Jacks, who were 3-0 on the weekend prior to the game, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Nate McGann doubled with one out and moved to third on Tim Donahue’s fly out to right field. He scored when Logan Koziupa doubled to left center.

Double Major tied it in the bottom of the first. John Espin hit a two-out single to left field, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. He scored on an infield hit toward first base by Mason Vindman.

The Diamond Jacks had a runner on third with one out in the second inning when a fly ball to right field field was caught by Trevor Kloby. The runner tagged and tried to score, but Kloby threw a seed to catcher Vindman for the inning-ending out and first of the three double plays.

The Diamond Jacks went ahead, 2-1, on an RBI double to center by Ryan Nigro with two out in the third.

The lead could have expanded in the fourth inning, if not for another Double Major double play.

After the Diamond Jacks got a leadoff walk, the runner took off for second when the next batter hit a liner that was caught by Sarrubbo at first. The hard part was making the catch. The easy play was stepping on first base for the unassisted double play.

Double Major went ahead with a three-run bottom of the fourth.

The inning began with Jake Zereconski beating out a grounder to shortstop, and Kloby reaching on a bunt single. Vincent Grande singled to shortstop, and an error on the play scored a run. There were runners on second and third with two out when Sarrubbo hit a two-single to center for a 4-2 lead.

The Diamond Jacks had runners on first and second with nobody out in the fifth inning. That’s when Garcia picked off the man at second for the first out.

The next batter hit into an infield double play, getting Double Major out of another potentially bad situation.

Gabriel Garcia and Joseph Sarrubbo of Double Major were named co-MVPs of the Halloween Mash.

Double Major extended its lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth. After the first batter grounded out, Mateo Matusz and Cole Gustafson both walked. Jake Zereconski was safe on a ground out that forced out the trail runner at second, but Matusz kept running and scored.

That run became important, since the Diamond Jacks scored twice in the top of the sixth. With runners on second and third and one out, McGann reached on a two-base error that scored both. McGann went to third on a groundout, but Garcia made the final outstanding fielding play to end the game.

“It was very nerve racking,” Garcia said. “I was surprised I did it. I was going to let it go foul, but saw it wasn’t going to go, so I threw it hard as I could to first.”

Sarrubbo, Zereconski and Kloby all finished with two hits apiece for Double Major, which was playing its final game of the season.

“Ending with a complete game is a great feeling and a great honor,” Garcia said.

Ending the year with a title was also meant a lot to Sarrubbo. 

“Earlier today I was realizing that we didn’t have practice tomorrow,” he said. “I realized then that we had to win this. I really want to thank my coaches and my parents.”

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