Diamond Jacks runner Jack Dally leads off first base. Cubs first baseman Alex Voli holds him on.
By Will Harrigan
Whenever the Diamond Jacks and Morris County Cubs get together at any age group, there’s always extra buzz at Diamond Nation.
Both organizations, which have produced lots of talent in their existence, draw from the same areas and are highly regarded on the travel circuit.
In their most recent encounter on the 12U level on Sunday in the Super 12 Invitational, it was the Diamond Jacks Super 12U — using a late innings explosion that included three crooked numbers — who came out on top, 14-6.
The DJacks parlayed that into a 12U tournament championship, which they achieved later in the day by defeating South Troy Dodgers, 13-4, in the semifinals, and closed it out by taking a 13-9 decision over the Taconic Rangers 12U in the title game.
“We were in a tough pool with three good teams, and that’s the way I like it,” said Super 12U coach Mark Crawford. “I’d rather have three difficult challenges than an easy group to get to the playoffs. We definitely had a challenge today.”
Indeed they did.
In their showdown with the Cubs, the DJacks were trailing 4-1 following Alex Voli’s base hit to score Vinnie Santorelli in the third.
Santorelli laced an RBI single in the first inning to give the Cubs — coached by current Kean University assistant Mike Matera — a 2-0 lead. Jared Haupt, a Roxbury resident who threw the ball well for the Cubs over four innings, singled in a run two batters earlier to open up the scoring.
The DJacks would start their rally in the top of the fourth, with Gino Spigarelli blasting an opposite field home run off Haupt to get the rally going.
An ill-timed Cubs error and an infield hit by Kamau Taylor set the table for Anthony Whelan, who laced a double into the right-center field gap to even up the game.
Luca Catanzarite would then step up with a man on and belt a towering two-run homer over the trees in center field, giving the DJacks a 7-4 lead. Four more walks in the fifth and two Cubs errors saw the winners hop out to a 10-5 lead.
“We took a much better approach later in the game. We were taking too many strikes and chasing too many balls,” Crawford said. “Once that got cleaned up we started to hit.”
Later in the game, the Cubs’ Voli belted one of the longest home run balls one will ever see at Diamond Nation. The righty batter took an offering to the opposite field, and hit one halfway up the roof on the batting cages down the right field line.
Parker Klug, making only his second pitching appearance all spring, pitched well for the DJacks, surrendering just three earned runs and striking out six in four innings of work.
“We’re just getting (Parker) back into the rotation now after he had some arm soreness over the spring,” Crawford said. “I’m pleased with how he threw today and he’ll definitely pitch some more over the summer.”