By Rich Bevensee
It was a win-win situation for the Diamond Jacks baseball program.
Chris Banos was guiding his Diamond Jacks 15U Super squad against Josh Ake and his Diamond Jacks 15U Gold club in the championship game of the Fall Brawl Tournament on Sunday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
The fact that the Super team defeated the Gold team, 6-2, for the title meant little to the coaches, who deemed the entire tournament a success because both teams went undefeated in pool play to reach the final.
The game itself had an intrasquad scrimmage feel to it, and the coaches didn’t miss the opportunity to kid around with the other team’s players.
When a Super team base runner was hit in the helmet with a throw on his way to stealing second base, Banos went out to check on his player – and to give a Gold fielder a good-natured shove.
“We practice with each other every week, the players are all friends, the coaches all friends, so when we can get two of our teams to the finals it’s awesome,” Ake said. “Both teams played well all weekend. I don’t think either one of us lost coming into the final. It’s fun to watch.”
Banos’ squad finished the weekend 5-0 and outscored the opposition 44-10. Ake’s team reached the tournament championship game for the second straight week and finished 3-1 overall with a 21-11 advantage in runs scored. Last week the Gold team advanced to the final of the Grand Slam Tournament and bowed to Prodigy Hitmen Orange 5-1.
“Both teams at this age group are very good,” Banos said. “They (Gold) made the finals of the tournament last weekend, and the last time we played it was close, so we knew it would be a battle.”
“There are a lot of guys on both teams who played really well,” Ake said. “On my team we had a lot of guys pitch very well, and their guys just smashed the ball all weekend up and down the lineup. So we didn’t limit ourselves to one guy.”
Alex Famolari, Owen Schilling and Danny Contiliano combined for a three-hitter for Diamond Jacks 15U Super. Famolari went two innings and allowed two runs on two hits and four walks with two strikeouts. Schilling threw two shutout innings and struck out two. Contiliano pitched a scoreless seventh inning, allowing one hit and striking out two.
Zach Geertsma swung the big bat for the Super 18U, going 2-for-2 with a two-run double (the only extra-base hit of the game), a walk and a run scored.
“I was struggling a little with my swing and Coach Walt (Cleary) helped me by opening up my stance,” Geertsma said. “In my first at bat in Florida (a tournament last week in West Palm Beach) I lined one up the middle. It felt good to do that and it felt more natural to swing that way.”
Also for Banos’ squad, Kellan Komline drove in two runs and Famolari had an RBI single.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” Banos said. “A lot of good pitching, a lot of good offense. A full team effort this weekend. Everyone contributed at some point.”
Gold team starting pitcher Chase Schollenberger allowed one run on one hit and two walks in two innings. Lefty Joey Fava permitted four runs on four hits and four walks with four strikeouts in three innings. Nick Yaccarino closed the game with an inning of work, allowing an unearned run on one hit and no walks.
Schollenberger, Joshua Figueredo and Artie Conover each singled for the Gold team, while Yaccarino and Justin Zdeb each had an RBI.
“We had some great pitching performances this weekend,” Ake said. “Artie threw a complete game in our first game, and Aidan Feldman threw a complete game to help us get to this point. That helped us save our pitching for this game and we didn’t have to use a lot of arms.”