By Sean Reilly
The championship of the Diamond Nation 11U August Showdown had all the makings of a fun experience for those involved, and it was.
The game turned into a matchup between two sides very familiar with each other – the Diamond Jacks Super 11U and the Diamond Jacks Gold 11U.
The two teams work out together, practice together and cross paths frequently while weekly tournaments are taking place at ‘The Nation.’
What they don’t normally do is face off against each other. But on Sunday evening, both teams advanced to the final of the event, resulting in the only head-to-head matchup of the year between the Super 11U and Gold 11U.
Adding to the environment was the fact that it was the final game of the summer season for both squads.
The mood at Field 2 in Flemington was loose. But make no mistake, the players on each side wanted to win. Especially when it meant bragging rights over friends and classmates.
Those honors went to Diamond Jacks Super 11U, which gained a 12-3 victory for its third straight tournament championship this summer.
“It’s more fun to play them, for sure,” said Super 11U center fielder and leadoff man Ian Peros, who shared tournament MVP honors with teammate Tyler LaGanga.
“We know everybody,” Peros said. “So there’s also more pressure.”
As a case in point, Peros is classmates in Long Valley with Carmen Bruno, who was also the center fielder and leadoff batter for the Gold 11U. Bruno also pitched in the game. The buddies had a head-to-head match up, and Peros walked.
“I know him from school and stuff, so it was cool to hit off him,” Peros said.
The Gold 11U was the home team for the game, by virtue of its 3-0 mark leading in. The Super 11U came in with a 2-1 record.
The Super 11U scored four times in the second inning for a 4-0 lead.
The first run scored when Joe LoPresti (2-for-3) hit a two-out single that deflected off the pitcher’s mound and into the outfield. An error on the play allowed Nino Sivio to score and LoPresti to wind up at second. Jack Suarez hit a single that advanced LoPresti to third.
Suarez was then engaged in a long rundown between first and second, during which LoPresti stole home, with Suarez ultimately retreating back to first.
Tyler LaGanga and Ian Peros were named co-MVPs of the 11U August Showdown.
Josh Labrador was up next, and hit an RBI double to left center. He took third on a throw, and scored the fourth run on a wild pitch.
The Gold 11U got a run back in the bottom of the inning. Nick Penna walked, courtesy runner Jake Petrillo stole second and moved to third when Demetri Bouroutis grounded to shortstop. Anthony Bott then hit an RBI groundout to first base.
The Super 11U scored five more in the third, with Nate McGann (3-for-3 and a walk) leading off with a home run to left field, followed by an RBI single from Tim Donahue, who would score on an error, and a two-out, two-run single by LoPresti, who finished 2-for-3.
The Gold 11U got a run in the fourth when Jake Petrillo (2-for-2) singled and later scored from third as a teammate was caught stealing.
The Gold 11U closed to 9-3 in the fifth after Jack Bower reached on an error, stole two bases and scored when Chase Larsen grounded out to second.
The Super 11U scored three times in the sixth, with Suarez reaching on an error and scoring on a wild pitch, McGann hitting an RBI single and the other run coming across on an error.
All in all, it was a great way for the Super 11U to close out a season in which it clearly improved throughout.
“We practiced better, and we were able to hit and pitch better,” said LaGanga, who walked three times in the final. “This was a good season. Now we’ll get ready for fall ball.”