Filiaci, McCabe swap roles, guide Super 14U in Home Run Classic

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 2, 2024

Matt Filiaci slides home safely in the fourth inning for the Diamond Jacks.

By Rich Bevensee

Normally when Diamond Jacks Super 14U is the topic of conversation, pitcher Matt Filiaci is singled out for all of the big game appearances he’s made, and top of the order hitters like Nick McCabe are credited with generating offensive support. 

On Saturday, the roles were reversed and the Diamond Jacks didn’t miss a beat.

Filiaci, batting in the cleanup spot, went 3-for-3 with three RBI and hits to all three fields. Then McCabe was called on early to pitch in relief and maneuvered through five scoreless innings. 

The Diamond Jacks, riding the efforts of Filiaci and McCabe, chalked up an 11-4 victory over All-Star Baseball Academy Futures 2027 Red in the 15U White bracket of the Home Run Classic Powered by Victus on Saturday morning at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

Filiaci, a southpaw who has carved a reputation as the team’s go-to arm, was the winning pitcher in the championship games of the Spring Invitational and the King Of The Diamond tournaments, both in April at Diamond Nation. But he’s also the team’s cleanup hitter, and on Saturday he was flawless.

In the first inning the lefty hitting Filiaci singled the opposite way. In the third he singled to right, and in the fourth he singled up the middle. All three hits came on two-strike counts, and all three drove in a run.

“Right now I’m more focused on hitting,” said Filiaci, who is giving his left arm a rest while nursing a UCL injury. “I’m having fun at bat, hitting it where it’s pitched and using the whole field. I have my hot and cold days. I was coming off two strikeouts last weekend, so I was trying to be aggressive today.”

Diamond Jacks coach Travis Anderson said that as successful as Filiaci has been pitching high leverage games, observers should not pigeon hole Filiaci as just a pitcher.

“He’s so good that even if he can’t pitch he’s gonna be in the lineup,” Anderson said. “He gives us a presence. He understands. He drives the ball the other way with so much authority, and at this age, they’re not really used to it. He hits with two strikes, he hits with two outs, he’s out there just trying to get a barrel, and he’s more successful than not.”

James Fenton drove in a pair of runs in support of McCabe, one with a sacrifice fly and one with a single down the left field line. Connor Bresler went 3-for-4 with a triple and an RBI. Luca Catanzarite had an RBI double, and Addison Adornato had an RBI single.

McCabe, a lefty who pitched in relief of Owen Ehrenkranz, entered in the third inning and immediately waded into trouble, as the Futures had runners on second and third with one out. McCabe escaped damage with two strikeouts looking, one with a changeup and one with a slider, his best pitch.

“I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes,” McCabe said. “I wasn’t nervous. I felt comfortable and knew I could let my infielders make some plays.”

“I think he’s going to be one of our main guys in the future,” said Diamond Jacks pitching coach Steve Shrenk, a former Major League pitching guru. “He’s got a good fastball, good offspeed stuff. He’s coming along great.”

McCabe, using a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup, pitched five scoreless innings while allowing two hits and four walks He struck out eight, including the last batter of the game with another devastating slider.

“It’s always good to have somebody like Nick,” Anderson said. “He walked three lefties with two out – you can’t give them bases and I got on him for that – but he did a good job pitching around the little trouble he was in, and with this offense, he did a good job getting us back in the dugout.”

The score was tied 1-1 when the Futures rallied for three runs in the top of the second. Reid Davis and Zane Shehata walked with the bases loaded and Tyler Draper roped an RBI single into left for a 4-1 lead. 

The Diamond Jacks mounted their comeback in the third inning against Futures starter Jacob Plankinton with four runs on four hits. Bresler drove in a run with a single up the middle, Filiaci singled to right, Fenton had a sacrifice fly and Addison Adornato singled to right for a 5-4 lead. 

The Diamond Jacks padded their lead with four more runs the next inning. Luca Catanzarite doubled home Mateo Liloia, who also doubled. Filiaci drove in another run with a single up the middle, Bresler scored on a wild pitch and Fenton singled down the left field line for a 9-4 lead. 

Bresler helped to add two more runs in the sixth when he tripled to the right-center gap to drive in McCabe, who he scored on a throwing error back to the infield. 

“We run the bases pretty well. We’re aggressive,” Anderson said. “When they give you 90 feet you gotta take it. On a 90-foot diamond the mistakes are big and I want them to capitalize on them. This is a fun team.”

The Diamond Jacks were to face Grit on Saturday before wrapping up 15U White pool play against the Elkridge Hurricanes of Maryland on Sunday at 8 a.m.

The Futures were slated to take on Elkridge on Saturday and Grit on Sunday at 8 a.m.

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