Lefthander A.J. Saccento mixed a little guile with cheddar and his teammates provided the hammer at the plate as the Diamond Jacks Super 14U cruised to the 14U Slugfest tournament championship on Sunday night at Diamond Nation.
The Super 14U defeated its brothers from the Diamond Jacks Gold 14U, 10-0, in the championship game as Saccento and David Varoli combined on a four-inning no-hitter.
The Super 16U also hammered out seven hits in the first two innings, when it scored all of its runs. The Gold 14U issued two walks, hit a batter and committed three errors to contribute to the deficit.
Saccento struck out five and walked two over 2.2 innings before giving way to Varoli with a runner on first and two outs in the third. Varoli finished the no-hitter and shutout while striking out three and walking three over the final 1.1 innings.
Saccento made life difficult for the Gold 14U courtesy of a hard fastball and nasty slider.
“My two-seamer and slider were working well,” said Saccento. “In the fall you want to stay in shape and get some innings in. I knew coach wanted to get Varoli in there, too.”
Saccento actually issued a four-pitch walk to leadoff batter Nolan Fuller in the top of the first inning then threw two straight balls to Evan Shak. That triggered an early visit from Super 14U coach Walt Cleary.
The quick head-clearing certainly worked, despite the eventual walk to Shak. Saccento induced a 4-6-3 double play and then stranded Fuller at third base when he struck out the next batter on a two-seamer.
“A.J. is phenomenal,” said Cleary. “He showed the ability to throw strikes despite the rocky start and the six straight balls. He was the pitching MVP at the Perfect Game event in Vineland last week.”
But it was the steady, or should we say relentless, hitting of Jayson Labrador and Blake Echternact that helped propel the Super 14U (4-0) to a dominant 45-3 runs advantage. Labrador and Echternact would share the 14U Slugfest’s MVP award.
“Jayson just hit, hit, hit throughout the tournament,” said Cleary, “and Blake caught two really good games for us.”
The Diamond Jacks Gold 14U (3-1) had earned its championship game berth with three pool play victories that included an impressive 25-6 runs advantage, but the Super 14U jumped on them for seven runs in the first inning.
The Gold 14U got themselves in trouble in the first inning by committing three errors and throwing four wild pitches before Echternact, Anthony DeNora and John Donahue provided the hammer with consecutive RBI singles to cap the rally.
Dylan Wayne led off the second inning with a single, stole second and scored on Labrador’s single to left field. Jayden Capindica drew a walk and both runners moved into scoring position on Varoli’s comebacker. Labrador scored on a wild pitch with Andrew Parisi at the plate. Parisi then brought Capindica home with an infield single.
Righthander Ian Grenda relieved after Capindica’s walk and did a nice job getting the Gold 14U squad through the second and third innings. He surrendered just two infield hits in the second — the other was to Joseph Barca — and retired six of the eight batters he faced.
Saccento struck out five straight Gold 14U batters at one point. Varoli walked Shak and Brian Quabeck in the fourth but struck out the side around the bases-on-balls to end the threat.