By Sean Reilly
The first weekend of 2023 tournament competition at Diamond Nation was good for the 14U teams representing the Diamond Jacks program.
Both teams reached the final of the 14U Spring Invitational at “The Nation.” The Super 14U did so with a 3-0 record and 41-2 run differential, while the Gold team breezed through pool play and a semifinal with a 3-0-1 record and 43-9 run difference.
The teams pulled the plug after three innings in the championship game on Sunday night after a tournament of strict pitch counts and cold conditions left both a bit short. The teams were declared co-champions.
The outcome on the scoreboard was secondary. The important thing over the weekend for both teams was getting on the field in tournament competition for the first time since October, and doing so successfully.
“This was a good weekend,” said Connor Bresler of the Super 14U, who hit a three-run inside-the-park home run with two out in the bottom of the first to give his team a 4-2 lead.
“That was fun,” he said of the homer. “It was off of one of my best friends, too, so that was pretty funny. I got my pitch outside and just stroked it opposite and hit over the center fielder, surprisingly. I thought he was going to catch it, honestly.”
The Gold team started the game with singles by Nico Moore and Andre Lucas Milciukas, and they both would come around to score for a 2-0 lead.
The Super 14U scored four in the bottom of the inning. Nikolas Holot was hit by a pitch and Justin Labrador walked. Holot scored the first run on a first-and-third play. Jackson Staples then walked before Bresler followed with his home run.
The Super 14U added its final runs in the third before the game ended.
“We knew coming in this age group was really solid all the way through,” said Diamond Jacks Super 14U coach Travis Anderson. “Even after breaking these teams into two we knew both of them had legitimate shots at being really good.”
The weekend for the Gold featured a 14-0 win over the Central Jersey Rebels, a 9-9 tie against Chesco Baseball and 12-0 win over the New England Ruffnecks 13U to complete pool play. The Gold team beat Maine Lightning 14U, 8-0, in a playoff game.
“We put a lot into the developmental end here,” said Anderson. “The growth we’ve seen through the winter showed on the field this weekend. We expect to win, but both teams going undefeated is reassuring to the kids that if they come to play they will be fine.”
The Super 14U opened the weekend with a 12-2 win over Team New Jersey Elite, followed with a 14-0 victory over Jersey Boyz Baseball and then blanked the Manalapan Braves, 15-0, to land a berth in the final.
“It was a good weekend and a good way to end it, playing against them,” Bresler said. “It was great to get back outside.”
The 14U spring is a jumping off point for, in a sense, for the teams full of eighth-graders.
“We want to get them prepared this spring for what is a very big summer for them, then set them up to be ready to play high school varsity baseball,” said Anderson.