By Sean Reilly
The Diamond Jacks Super 12s have the utmost respect for an opponent as strong as the Breaker Boys, but that didn’t change one simple truth heading into Sunday night’s championship game of the 12U Mid-Summer Classic at Diamond Nation.
The DJacks wanted to pounce.
After not playing to their liking the prior two weeks, first at a tournament in Georgia, and then at an event in Newark, the Diamond Jacks were looking for better results back on their home turf in Flemington. The objectives were met in resounding fashion, as the DJacks Super 12U closed out a dominant weekend with a 14-1 triumph in the final.
They rolled through the first two pool games on Friday, and then won big again on Saturday night to advance through to the championship game. In those three pool games, the Super 12U outscored their opponents, 44-2.
The Breaker Boys didn’t begin play until winning twice on Saturday, and completed pool play early on Sunday before having to advance in a playoff to reach the final. That meant three games in one day in hot, humid conditions.
“Our boys played really well. They really swung the bats,” DJacks coach Mark Crawford said. “That Breaker team is really good, but we played good defense early and it’s a lot to ask the Breaker Boys to play three games in one day, especially in this heat. We were fortunate that we played Friday and only had to come to the 8:30 game.”
Knowing that they were the more rested team, a quick start was imperative for the DJacks.
The Breaker Boys, who finished the tournament with a 3-2 record, were coming off an 11-3 playoff victory immediately prior over the Morris County Cubs.
The Pennsylvania team started the final with an infield single by Riley Sebastian and a walk to Chayse Deamer. But the next batter lined out to Diamond Jacks second baseman T.J. Dally, who stepped on the bag for an unassisted double play. The runner left on first was then thrown out stealing by catcher Gino Spigarelli for a momentum-building end to the inning.
Then came an explosive bottom of the frame for the Diamond Jacks.
Luca Catanzarite led off by reaching on an error and stole second. Gavin Ross followed with a RBI double to the right field corner. Anthony Whelan then singled him to third, and took second on the play. Kamau Taylor singled to shortstop, with Ross scoring for a 2-0 lead.
That sent Spigarelli to the plate with two men on. He followed with a three-run home run to deep center field.
“In the at-bat, he started off by giving me two fastballs,” he said. “Then he hung me a curveball, thinking I’d be out in front. I sat on it, felt really confident, took a hack and hit it out.”
To summarize: Five batters up, five runs scored and a huge early lead.
“It feels awesome to try a new two-strike approach,” Spigarelli said. “Being confident at the plate, for sure, and getting my team on the board feels awesome. When we strike first, not just in the championship, but in any game and have insurance early, it means so much.”
“We had the energy and we were just hitting good,” Catanzarite said. “Coach Mark told us to jump on them because they were playing three games. Out of the gate, we started hitting. It was a pretty dominant first inning.”
The Breaker Boys were able to load the bases with two out in the second inning, but pitcher Whelan retired the next batter on a pop up to Catanzarite at shortstop.
The DJacks then tacked onto their lead. Bryson Auten led off the bottom of the inning with a home run deep into the trees in left field. Owen Rivenbark walked and stole second. Catanzarite hit a run-scoring double and stole third. He scored on a wild pitch with Ross at the plate. Ross worked out a walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch. Whelan then hit a run-scoring ground out to third for a 9-0 margin.
The Breaker Boys scored in the third, off of a triple by Sebastian and ground out by Deamer.
But the Diamond Jacks had another outburst in the bottom of the inning, with five runs scoring without any hits.
“We played incredibly as a team all weekend,” Spigarelli said. “Everybody contributed, and I hope we can continue going in the right direction. We definitely felt confident. We really wanted to go out and give it our best, especially after a couple of disappointing weekends. This feels really good for the team. We were in Georgia two weeks ago and Newark last week, and didn’t play our best baseball. But we came home and showed them whose turf it is.”