By Sean Reilly
Sam Broder may be an 11U player, but don’t be fooled. The NJ Renegades standout is a Diamond Nation veteran.
Not only is he a quality player for a Renegades team that was one of the top 10U sides to visit ‘The Nation’ in 2022, he also knows what it takes to succeed against the challenging tournament competition that’s commonplace in Flemington.
Now that the team is a year older, he also knows that winning only becomes tougher. The Renegades learned that in their first tournament visit of the year in April, when they won two out of three games, but did not advance beyond their pool.
The Renegades returned over the weekend for the 11U Home Run Classic, Powered By Victus. And this time the result was an unbeaten weekend, capped by a 9-4 triumph over the Diamond Jacks Super 11U in the championship game.
The Renegades did a bit of everything in the title contest. The defense was outstanding, the hitting was clutch, including a five-run inning where all the runs came with two out, and Broder’s pitching was on point, as he went all six innings to earn the win.
“We were able to string hits together,” Broder said. “We may not have had as many hits, but we were able to go on the bases as a collective team, and the hits that we got were crucial for those scenarios. We didn’t have many one-hit innings where we just went back on the field.”
The team-first play didn’t end there.
“The defense played great,” Broder said. “That was very big. I trust them, and it makes my job easier. When our team is hitting, and we were hot all weekend, especially our leadoff and No. 2 hitter, it gets us going. Our base running was great. We had great awareness on the bases. It was very good to see our team pumped and ready and looking alive.”
The Diamond Jacks, who entered the game with a 3-0-1 record, scored a run on a wild pitch in the top of the first. They also had a runner on first when Logan Koziupa hit a two-out single, but Renegades right-fielder Ethan Perkell made a perfect throw to third baseman Vihaan Garg to erase the runner.
The Diamond Jacks also started the second inning with a well-hit double to center by Tyler LaGanga. But his bid for a triple was denied by a fabulous relay from center fielder Gavin Neigel to shortstop Kyle Jones to Garg at third. Broder then retired the next two batters.
The Renegades offense went to work in the bottom of the inning. There was a runner on third with two out when Jones hit an RBI single to shortstop for a 1-1 tie.
Then, in what was probably the biggest at-bat of the game, Tejas Ramayanam Venkatt faced a 1-2 count, and after fouling off several pitches, struck an RBI double to the gap in left center field. Matt Ramos walked, and the runners moved up a base with leadoff man Perkell at the plate. He followed with a two-run single to center. After Perkell moved to second on a wild pitch, Garg singled him home for a 5-1 lead.
The Diamond Jacks got an RBI single from Ian Peros with two out in the third, but the Renegades defense again sparkled when right-fielder Perkell fielded a ball hit in front of him and threw to first baseman Liano Bisceglia in time for the third out.
The Diamond Jacks closed to 5-4 in the fifth, with Jack Suarez delivering an RBI ground out and Josh Labrador hitting an RBI single. A caught stealing and strikeout prevented further damage.
The Renegades then put the game away by scoring four times in the bottom of the fifth.
The inning began with walks to Garg and Broder, and a wild pitch advanced the runners. With the infield playing in, Chris Portman hit a two-run single past the second baseman and into right field. Neigel later reached on a fielder’s choice forceout that scored Portman, and Jones hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center for the final run.
“I like playing here,” Broder said. “I like how it brings out a family-friendly feeling more than just a bunch of the USABL stuff. The umps are always on time and it’s a nice complex. We’ve also done well as a team, and that’s always a nice positive.”