Fast rising Diamond Jacks 16U pitches Grand Slam shutout

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 3, 2023

By Rich Bevensee

The Diamond Jacks baseball program, and for that matter the Diamond Nation baseball complex in Flemington, may never again see the likes of what the Diamond Jacks Super 16U team accomplished this past weekend. 

When Michael Basile stroked a two-out, RBI single into center field in the bottom of the fourth inning, it capped a four-inning, 10-0 victory over Warehouse Grizzlies ‘26 Purple and gave the hosts a walk-off celebration in the 16U Grand Slam championship game on Sunday evening at Diamond Nation.

More importantly, it cemented a performance by the Diamond Jacks pitching staff that may never be equaled. 

Seven pitchers, all high school sophomores – Ryan Auten, Joaquin Rivera, Sean Loggie, Cayden Vishnesky, Alex Famolari, Konnor Ware and Kellen Komline – accounted for five shutouts and just five hits surrendered in the entire tournament.

The Diamond Jacks outscored five opponents 52-0. That just doesn’t happen in club baseball.

“It’s crazy, I know,” said Diamond Jacks coach Josh Ake, who played five years in the program (2007-11) and is in his second season as a coach and instructor. “I couldn’t believe it either when I was looking at it. Five hits (allowed) in five games – that doesn’t happen often. I know I’ve never seen it. But they came out and pounded the zone for the most part. I don’t think we had one bad inning. Two hits was the worst inning we had.”

Indeed, when Komline gave up one-out, back-to-back hits to the Grizzlies in the top of the third, it was the first time all weekend the Diamond Jacks had given up consecutive hits, let alone been in danger of being scored upon. 

Komline got a strikeout and picked a runner off first to keep the Diamond Jacks’ amazing streak of shutout innings alive. The team’s pitching staff finished with 23 scoreless innings. 

“It was fun knowing we had that going into the championship game,” said Komline, a sophomore at Bridgewater-Raritan. “It put good pressure on us, allowing us to pitch in the moment. It was great. There wasn’t any pressure to lose it because we’re really confident in our pitchers and we knew we were able to get the job done. Honestly that (shutout streak) was kind of an extra as the weekend went along.”

The seven Diamond Jacks pitchers were named co-Most Valuable Players, along with Basile, a Gov. Livingston sophomore who caught all five games. 

“Gotta give Basile a lot of credit back there,” Ake said. “He caught every game and did a really good job knowing his pitchers, controlling the game, knowing what their strengths were and playing to that, and it was awesome.”

Grand Slam 16U MVPs, from left, catcher Michael Basile, pitchers Sean Loggie, Alex Famolari, Cayden Vishnesky, Konnor Ware, Ryan Auten. Missing, pitchers Joaquin Rivera, Kellen Komline.

Basile said it was the Diamond Jacks pitchers’ ability to keep hitters off balance by throwing breaking balls for strikes as the key to pitching 23 shutout innings. 

“We have a lot of good guys and they showed their best stuff this weekend,” Basile said. “They completely dominated. They were getting ahead of guys, attacking guys, coming right at them with their best stuff, knowing they were the better pitcher. They also limited the walks so they never got rattled.”

The weekend began Saturday with left-hander Ryan Auten, from Delaware Valley High, pitching a complete game, four-inning 15-0 shutout of Sports Zone of Syracuse, N.Y.

Joaquin Rivera, a lefty from Bergen Catholic, threw a five-inning gem against PA Rebels Maroon in a 9-0 victory in a Saturday nightcap.

On Sunday, Sean Loggie, a southpaw from Christian Brothers, authored a four-inning, 10-0 blanking of Outlaws Baseball. 

In the semifinals, righties Cayden Vishnesky and Alex Famolari combined on a five-inning no-hitter as the Diamond Jacks advanced with an 8-0 verdict over Out Of The Park Cyclones Futures. Vishnesky attends Pen Argyl Area High in Pennsylvania and Famolari is an early Duke commit from North Hunterdon.

Ake handed the ball to 6-5 righty Konnor Ware (of Central Bucks East) for the championship game, and he pitched two innings before giving way to Komline for the final two frames.

“This shows we’re a really special squad,” Komline said. “We all get after it, we all want to be the best we can be, we all love this sport and we all take it seriously. This is a reflection of how hard we’ve been working as a team to get better.”

“This group is starting to come together really well,” Ake said. “The pitchers are competing with each other, finding ways to make baseball – which can be a monotonous game – fun for themselves, and they’re all coming into their own at a good time.”

In the championship game, Dan Contiliano (Hunterdon Central) got the Diamond Jacks out front early with a three-run triple in the bottom of the first inning.

In the second, Colin Newcomb (Ridge) scored on an outfield error for a 4-0 lead.

In the third, Immaculata’s Owen Schilling blasted a two-run home run to left field which, upon the ping of the bat, prompted a chorus of “oohs” from the dugout and fans. Basile lofted a sacrifice fly for a 7-0 Diamond Jacks lead. 

Komline and Famolari combined for a web gem in the top of the fourth. The Grizzlies’ Grant Lorentzen drilled a one-out grounder back to the mound where Komline turned and inadvertently kicked it backward toward third where Famolari would field it and fire to first for the out.

In the bottom of the fourth, Schilling struck again with a two-run grounds rule double, and he scored two batters later on Basile’s tournament-ending base hit to center.

Ake was asked after the final out if this Diamond Jacks team was a good team playing great, or a great team destined for even bigger things.

“It’s a great team, no question, especially when the offense comes alive like that,” Ake said. “Defense and pitching has always been there. The offense is learning who they are as a team, and they’re really starting to swing it well, and when they do they’re one of the best I’ve been around in a while.”

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