By Sean Reilly
Owen Ehrenkranz and his Diamond Jacks Super 13U teammates knew that they were getting better, and now they have a tournament championship to prove it.
Ehrenkranz, who had a fine weekend at the plate, threw five strong innings in the final when the Super 13U beat the NJ Rising Rebels 13U Red, 10-3, in the title game of the Diamond Nation 13U Spring Fever Tournament on Sunday evening in Flemington.
The title was the first of the spring season at ‘The Nation’ for the Super 13U. It completed a 5-0 weekend in which it outscored their opponents, 49-6.
Ehrenkranz was named the tournament MVP after allowing three hits (two of them in the first inning) with seven strikeouts and two walks in his five-inning stint against the Rising Rebels. While he wasn’t in the batting lineup for the final, he had seven hits, including two triples, over the four prior games.
He was pleased with his own performance, but even happier with the way the Super 13U upped its game during the weekend, with the overall season still in its relatively early stages.
“This was a really good weekend,” he said. “Definitely the best where we’ve put it together. We’ve come a long way to get to this point.”
Not only did the Super 13U play well in the final, they showed resilience to earn their first-place hardware.
The Rising Rebels, who went 3-1-1 over the weekend, took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning against the Diamond Jacks.
Julian Liu (3-for-4, two runs) hit a one-out double to left field and scored one out later on Pat McKeever’s infield single. James Gaven was hit by a pitch before McKeever stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
The Super 13U, meanwhile, left runners on first and third in the first inning and couldn’t score after loading the bases with one out in the second, when Liu caught a fly ball in center field and threw a seed to catcher Devin Gerena, who tagged the lead runner for a double play.
The Rising Rebels started the third with an infield hit from Liu, who moved to third on two wild pitches during a long at-bat by the next hitter, who ultimately struck out on a full count. Ehrenkranz struck out the next batter looking, and got the third out on a fly ball to left field. That began a string of nine straight outs to close out his outing.
“I was mixing my pitches, which is what I’ve been working on, and just trying to command the strike zone,” he said. “We also made some good plays in the field.”
The Super 13U then broke through with a five-run bottom of the fourth.
Jason Baker led off with a walk, and he scored when Owen Rivenbark doubled to right-center. Matt Filiaci singled on a full count to right field, sending Rivenbark to third. Anthony Whelan hit a one-run double to left field, which left runners on second and third for Gabe Miller. He hit a two-run double to center for a 4-2 lead with nobody out. After a walk and strikeout, Gavin Ross was retired on a ground out to first base, with Miller scoring the fifth run.
The lead was extended with two more runs in the fifth inning. Luca Catanzarite led off with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a fly out and scored on a balk. Rivenbark, who ended 2-for-2 with a walk, added a single to right field to score Baker, who had reached on a base hit and moved to second on the balk which scored Catanzarite.
The Rising Rebels closed to 7-3 in the sixth, after Liu singled, stole two bases and scored when McKeever grounded out to shortstop.
The Super 13U pulled away with a three-run bottom of the inning, with Catanzarite hitting a two-run double to left-center with two out before scoring on Gino Spigarelli’s single to left field.
Whelan and Miller both ended 2-for-3 for the Super 13U, while Nick McCabe and Will Bacolo both walked twice in three trips.