Diamond Jacks Super 12U delivers comeback and championship

By DN WRITING STAFF | March 19, 2024

By Sean Reilly

When certain teams meet at Diamond Nation, you know that a good game will follow. 

That was certainly the case on Sunday afternoon, when two stalwarts, the Bergen Crush and Diamond Jacks Super 12U, met in the final of the Spring Invitational in Flemington. 

Both teams went unbeaten in three games while winning their respective pool. The Crush advanced straight to the final by virtue of a superior run differential, while the Diamond Jacks Super 12U gained their spot in the championship by beating the other pool winner, the Madison Dodgers, in the semifinals. 

The clash between the Crush and Diamond Jacks was as good as anticipated. In fact, it wasn’t decided until the final at-bat. 

That’s when Diamond Jacks third baseman Ryan Bierne, with the tying run on third base and two out, fielded a hard-hit grounder by the Crush’s Joe Peterson toward the back of the bag, and then threw a seed across the infield to first baseman Joe LoPresti a split-second in time for the clinching out.

The result: a 9-8 triumph for the Diamond Jacks, and a great way to launch the 2024 season. And despite the outcome, the tournament also marked a fine start for the Crush, as well. 

The big hit was delivered by Drew Piotrowski, the No. 10 hitter in the Diamond Jacks lineup. His single to center with two out in the top of the sixth scored Alan Pena from third with the go-ahead run.

Pena had doubled to center with two out, and moved to third on a wild pitch. 

After Piotrowski’s single made the score 8-7, Luka Manfredi singled to shortstop, and a double to center by leadoff man Ian Peros brought in Piotrowski with a very important insurance run. 

Piotrowski was thrilled to play a pivotal role in the rally. 

“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing, and probably the most clutch moment I’ve ever had,” he said. “And it just sparked something in our team. I was just thinking, just hit it somewhere where they’re not. This was just an amazing weekend.”

After both teams scored a run in the first inning, the Crush scored three times in the bottom of the second, with the runs scoring on an error, a ground out to shortstop by Tyler Hannigan and single to center from Matthew Carvelli. 

The Diamond Jacks countered with four runs in the top of the third, getting an RBI triple to center field by Ryan Nigro, two-run home run home run to deep left field by Nate McGann and an RBI hit by Rocco Gaeta for a 5-4 lead.

The Crush tied the game in bizarre fashion in the bottom of the third, before going ahead with two more runs later in the frame. 

Walks to Peyton Lora and Dylan Kim and a hit-by-pitch to Aaron Yoo loaded the bases with two out. 

A rundown developed on the bases which wound up involving at various points all three runners. The end result of the long sequence was a triple steal, with Lora scoring the tying run. The others came home on a base hit to right field from Hannigan, giving the Crush a 7-5 lead.

The Diamond Jacks were able to tie it in the fifth inning. Peros hit a grounds rule double to right center with one out. After the next batter struck out, McGann was hit by a pitch. LoPresti walked to load the bases, and Tyler LaGanga followed with a two-run single to center. 

After the RBI hits by Piotrowski and Peros gave the Diamond Jacks the two-run lead in the top of the sixth, the Crush had a final chance in the bottom of the inning. 

Carvelli was hit by a pitch leading off, and took second on an errant pickoff try. Tyler Bottieri smacked a RBI double to center field and was bunted over to third.

With the infield playing in, Diamond Jacks reliever Josh Labrador struck out the next batter looking for the second out. Peterson followed with the hard hit ball to third that was successfully handled by Bierne and LoPresti for the final out.

“I just fielded it and threw it,” Bierne said. “I had to get him out.” 

“That play was nice,” Piotrowski said. “This was a great way to start the year. We had to battle in every single game. We didn’t get off easy in any single one. We did very well as a team. We played clean defense and got key hits.”

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