The Diamond Jacks Super 11U found itself in a battle for survival in the rugged 11U Home Run Classic last weekend at Diamond Nation.
Fortunately for the Super11U squad, it had brought along a fully loaded bat rack that would produce 58 runs in five games and, ultimately, the tournament championship.
While the Super 11U’s pitching was strong in spots, including three impressive performances in which the staff surrendered a total of just five runs. But the Super 11U also had to battle through two slugfests to remain undefeated, if not untied, in the Home Run Classic.
The Diamond Jacks (4-0-1) capped the tournament in a flourish, defeating a tough Mid Atlantic Shockers squad, 14-1, in the championship game. The Shockers had reached the championship game at 3-0.
The Diamond Jacks struck for two runs in the first inning, one in the second and nine runs in the third to take an early 12-0 lead. Blake Echternacht got the start in the final and picked up the win. The Super 11U had defeated Warrior Baseball NY, 6-3, in the semifinals to advance.
“We played well defensively, too, in the two playoff games,” said Super 11U coach Mark Crawford. “
Echternacht and Jack Markovich each contributed mightily to the Super 11U’s championship and were named the 11U tournament co-Most Valuable Players.
Drew Hartong pitched four scoreless innings in the hot Sunday sun as the Diamond Jacks built a 4-0 lead against the Warriors in the semifinals. But the gritty Warriors, who had tied Super 11U, 10-10 in pool play, rallied for three runs in the top of the fifth. But the Diamond Jacks struck for two runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 6-3 lead and regain breathing room. Soren Gregor closed out Hartong’s victory with two scoreless innings of relief.
The Diamond Jacks certainly showed their grit in the 10-10 tie with the Warriors, rallying from a 10-3 deficit with two runs in the fourth inning, four in the fifth and one run in the sixth to tie the game. Super 11U was down to its last out in the sixth and final inning when it scored to tie the game. The game ended tied after the fourth inning due to the time limit.
“We didn’t take care of the ball in that game,” said Crawford. “We committed four errors.” But Super 11U did come up with some clutch defense to hold the Warriors scoreless in the sixth. Gregor, the second baseman, made a diving stop in the hole and threw to first for the third out to strand the bases loaded.
Justin Labrador threw just 47 pitches in an impressive four-inning pitching performance in the second game of pool play as the Diamond Jacks cruised to an 11-1 victory over Team Combat. Markovich had two hits, Echternacht had two hits and drove in three runs and Cole Raymond hit a walk-off home run that gave the Diamond Jacks an 11-1 lead and the win via the 10-run mercy rule.
“We played well in that one and it set us up pretty well for a playoff berth,” said Crawford.
The Diamond Jacks and Flood City Elite fought a back-and-forth battle of wills in the tournament opener as pitching took a backseat to heavy lumber.
Flood City Elite struck first, scoring four runs in the first, but the Diamond Jacks answered with nine runs in the second and the battle was on. Each team struck for five runs in the third as Super 11U took a 14-9 lead. Flood City Elite scored twice in the top of the fourth to draw within 14-11, but the Diamond Jacks responded with a three-run rally in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead to 17-11. More importantly, the long innings would signal an end to the donnybrook via the time limit.
“Flood City is a quality team,” said Crawford. “They went the 10U World Series last year and beat us 10-2 in the summer. I felt this game would tell us a lot about where we were going in the tournament, advancing or not.”
Markovich blasted a three-run homer in the win over Flood City Elite and Raymond picked up the victory in relief.
North Hunterdon Youth Baseball 5, Tri-State Arsenal 4
North Hunterdon Youth Baseball Red Elite stubbed its toe in its 10U Home Run Classic opener, falling 12-8 to the Diamond Jacks 10U squad. But NHYB ran the table from there to nail down the tournament championship.
Ty Kane, who went 6-for-13 in the tournament, delivered Jude Henn with a fielder’s choice grounder in the bottom of the fifth inning to give North Hunterdon a 5-4 lead over Tri-State Arsenal. Henn started the rally with a one-out single and Ray Tavares followed with a single.
It was Tavares who stepped up on the mound in the final for North Hunterdon. He permitted two runs on four hits, struck out six and walked two in an impressive 5.1 innings of relief. Liam Kane, George DeTorres and Kyle McBride each chipped in with an RBI in the championship game.
“This is a great group of boys,” said head coach Mike Kane. “They’ve been playing together since they were 8 years old.”
North Hunterdon (3-1) avenged its tournament-opening loss to the Diamond Jacks with a thrilling 5-3 victory over the home squad in the semifinals. The Red Elite trailed 3-1 entering its final at bat in the top of the sixth inning when it rallied for four runs to take a 5-3 lead.
McBride delivered a two run triple to tie the game at 3-3 before Aaron Corcoran brought home the go-ahead run with a fielder’s choice grounder. Henn then drew a bases-loaded walk to boost the lead to 5-3.
North Hunterdon had righted itself in the second game of the tournament when it rolled to an 11-1 decision over Tri-State Arsenal.
Jadon Krisanda went 5-for-10 with a pair of doubles, scored three runs and drove home two to earn the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
“Jadon had a break out weekend,” said Kane. “He did a great job.” Krisanda had plenty of help from his teammates at the plate.
McBride went 5-for-9 with a pair of triples, drove home seven runs and scored twice. DeTorres was 5-for-11, drew three walks, drove in two runs and scored four times. Jack Schlaudecker had two hits, drove in four runs and scored three times. Liam Kane had two hits, scored six runs, drove in two and caught every inning of the tournament. He threw out two base runners at second base, to boot.
North Hunterdon Youth Baseball Red Elite is now 15-2 on the season after closing 2018 with a 34-4 record.
Home Run Classic recap
17-18U Wood Bat
Dig In Baseball 3, Morris County Cubs 1: Dig In Baseball nipped the Morris County Cubs, 3-1, in the 17-18U Wood Bat Home Run Classic championship game. Doug Marose of Dig In Baseball was named the 17-18U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Dig In Baseball (4-1) outscored its tournament opponents 22-13 while the Cubs (3-1) held a 28-4 runs advantage on their opponents.