Henry Kusant endures a bit of chin music for the Diamond Jacks. Kusant walked three times.
By Rich Bevensee
The Diamond Jacks Super 12U team known for scoring runs in bunches this past summer is now operating as a 13U squad, but besides that, nothing much has changed.
There are a few new faces, to be sure, but the team still scores runs by the truckload, even on the 90-foot diamond.
And because all but two of their games this fall have been rained out, they didn’t mind cranking up their offensive machine despite playing a doubleheader in similarly poor conditions on Friday night at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
The Diamond Jacks Super 13U team opened its fall season at ‘The Nation’ with a 15-1 decision over Locked In Expos Black, and, after a brief rest to oil the machine, finished up Friday night play in wet, windy and cold weather by earning a 10-2 victory over Locked In Expos White.
In the nightcap against Expos White, Ilan Pony tripled, singled and drove in three runs in his tournament debut with the Diamond Jacks. Another new member of the team, Chase Hallett, pitched well in relief. He and familiar face Ryan Jezorwski both walked and scored twice.
Diamond Jacks coach Mark Crawford said he isn’t so much concerned about his players making the transition from a 45/60 diamond to a 60/90-foot diamond, but more about making sure they remain true to their fundamentals.
“It’s still a learning process and this weather’s tough to learn in, but my philosophy doesn’t change, little field to big field,” Crawford said. “I’m a big ‘Throw strikes, play defense’ guy. Especially right now at 13, the teams that do that the most will be successful because no one’s going to overpower the field at 13. That’s why I don’t care much about home runs on the little field, because in three months they’re going to be outs.”
Pony, Hallett and Jordan Bennett are three new faces on the Diamond Jacks team, and their performances figured greatly on Friday, with two hits, four walks, three RBI and four runs in eight combined plate appearances.
Andrew Finarelli comes around to score on Ilan Pony’s two-run single for the Diamond Jacks.
“They’ve been a huge asset to the team, and they’re great kids,” Crawford said.
It was Pony’s RBI triple and run scored in the first inning which boosted the Diamond Jacks ahead for good at 2-1. With the Diamond Jacks clinging to a 4-2 lead in the fourth, Pony sparked a six-run rally with a two-run single.
Pony said he wasn’t concerned with being on a new team, with many of the established players having been together for a few years. He was more focused on changing his approach at the plate since he would no longer be driving pitches over a 200-foot fence.
“I wasn’t worried about a new team. I’m a social guy,” Pony said. “The power is the biggest challenge now. In 12U I was able to get away with certain stuff. Now I have to use a whole different approach. I used to be about hitting one out on a line, but now it has to be gap-to-gap and maybe leg some stuff out.”
Pony’s two-run single in the fourth was a bigger blow than his triple in the first, because it gave the Diamond Jacks a bit more breathing room.
Pony’s single came with the bases loaded, and the play eventually wiped the bases clean since Hallett scored on an outfield error on the play.
Pony later scored on a wild pitch, Rich Griswold drove in a run with a fielder’s choice, and Henry Kusant scored on a wild pitch to give the Diamond Jacks their 10-2 lead.
The Expos struck first when Patrick Brosnan drove in a run with a groundout in their first at bat. The Diamond Jacks quickly grabbed the lead in the bottom of the inning when Pony tripled, scored and Nick Stangota earned a bases loaded walk for a 3-1 lead.
The Expos crept within a run at 3-2 in the second on Anthony English’s RBI groundout. The Diamond Jacks countered with a run in the third when Jezorwski walked with the bases loaded.
Diamond Jacks pitchers performed well in spite of the weather which made a simple pitching delivery challenging. Harrison Politi threw three innings and allowed two runs on two hits, three walks and a hit batsman with one strikeout. Hallett threw two scoreless innings in relief. He allowed one hit and struck out two.