Diamond Jacks Super 12U picks up two wins ahead of storm

By DN WRITING STAFF | September 23, 2023

Nate McGann cracks an RBI double to fuel the Diamond Jacks’ six-run, first inning rally.

By Rich Bevensee

The Diamond Jacks Super 12U squad was in a hurry to win, plain and simple. 

With Tropical Storm Ophelia barreling up the coast like a freight train with no brakes, Diamond Jacks coach Matt Markiewicz implored his players to make the most of their Friday night games in the Super 12 Fall Invitational. The entire Saturday slate of games had already been canceled as a precaution.

The Diamond Jacks took their coach’s words to heart by scoring 23 runs and blitzing their way to a doubleheader sweep, with Tyler LaGanga’s one-hit, 13-0 shutout of Locked In Expos Black serving as the nightcap at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

In their opener, the Diamond Jacks defeated Bucks County Generals 12U Red, 10-2.

“Going 2-0 into Sunday when most teams haven’t played two games gives us the opportunity to have that No. 1 seed and roll into Sunday and see what we’ve got,” Markiewicz said. (Editor’s note at press time, Sunday’s slate would be rained out as well).

Against the Expos, LaGanga was backed by an offensive assault which scored 13 runs on 13 hits, with eight of those hits going for extra bases. Joe Lopresti cranked a two-run home run, Alan Pena tripled, Tim Donahue doubled twice, and LaGanga, Nate “Fatboy” McGann, Tim Donahue and Ryan Nigro each doubled once.

Lopresti (2-for-2) and McGann (2-for-3) both knocked in three runs while Donahue (2-for-3) and Nigro (2-for-2) drove in two runs each. Lopresti’s homer, which bounced off the top of the center field fence before going over, capped the Diamond Jacks’ six-run first inning rally.

The Diamond Jacks added five runs in the third and two more in the fourth, prompting the bench to start shouting, “It’s all goody in the hoody.”

“With your teammates hitting, it’s like a good rally going on,” McGann said. “Everytime we have two outs and you think you’re about to get out, you piece together an at bat and you absolutely rope one. And that’s what we all do.”

Alan Peña celebrates third-inning triple with DJacks teammates and coach Matt Markiewicz.

LaGanga displayed some grit by competing with a sore pitching hand. He injured the pinky finger on his throwing hand in gym class earlier this week, then slammed the same hand in a door at home. 

LaGanga gave up an infield hit to the second batter, Ivan Perez, who was erased on a steal attempt by McGann the catcher. LaGanga then retired the next 10 Expos batters in order. He would throw just 35 pitches in his four-inning shutout.

“Tyler was incredible,” Markiewicz said. “I asked him to just go out there and throw strikes. He hurt himself in gym class earlier in the week, and he may not have had the velocity he’s used to, but I told him to throw strikes and let your defense do the work and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Diamond Jacks made a handful of terrific defensive plays to back LaGanga’s work. McGann cut down Perez in the first inning with a frozen rope to shortstop Logan Koziupa. In the second inning, center fielder Domahue made a diving catch of an Eric Conkllin fly ball. 

In the third, the Diamond Jacks made a pair of sensational plays on consecutive batters. Koziupa ranged deep in the hole to backhand a Tyler Leach grounder and throw him out. The next batter, Matt Reed, was retired when Pena retreated from his second base post and made a twisting, acrobatic catch in shallow right field.

“Defense wins games,” Markiewicz said. “I was happy to see them go out there and play aggressive defense. Sometimes we get a little tentative and don’t want to lay out or make the extra effort to make that play. It was nice to see the aggression today. It was awesome.”

The Expos dropped to 1-1 with the loss. The storm wiped out 14 games on Saturday, and, we would learn on Saturday, the entire Sunday slate as well.

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