Grit’s Jaxel remains tall on the baseball field

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 27, 2024

Nesha Jovic steps into a pitch for 13U Grit Black.

By Rich Bevensee

On most days he’s easily the smallest guy on the field, but the game Dan Jaxel brings to the mound is one of the biggest weapons in the 13U Grit Black arsenal.

Jaxel arrived at Diamond Nation in Flemington feeling good about his pending start Saturday afternoon, and his instincts were spot on. Mixing his mid-50s fastball and looping curve, Jaxel pitched his best game of the spring, carrying Grit to an 8-0 triumph over Diamond Jacks White in a 13U Williams Harley Davidson pool play contest at ‘The Nation.’

Not only was it Jaxel’s first shutout of the spring, it was his first in nearly two years. Jaxel allowed two hits and two walks while striking out three.

“I’m excited, happy for myself. This was definitely my best game yet,” Jaxel said. “I feel I threw more accurately today and it helped me with not letting people on base. Today was pretty good, one of my better days.”

The Diamond Jacks never really mounted a threat against Jaxel, who permitted only three runners to reach scoring position. In the first inning, he allowed a leadoff single to Jakob Fetterman. In the third, he gave up a single to Graham Drennan and a walk to Kyle Karlbon on back-to-back batters, but got out of that one-out jam with a flyout and popup. 

It also didn’t hurt that the Grit defense, prepared for Jaxel to pitch to contact, handled 12 chances without an error. 

“I love that kid,” Grit coach Manny Fernandes said. “He’s a tough competitor. He hits his spots and pounds the zone, and he doesn’t back down against anybody. I tell him he’s got the ball and he’s ready to go.”

Dan Jaxel of 13U Grit Black notched his first shutout in nearly two years with a two-hitter.

Jaxel said he mixed his fastball with a curveball about 30 percent of the time, and that was enough to limit the number of hard-hit balls. 

“I use my fastball to work the corners and I’ll try to go inside to freeze them, but nothing down the middle,” Jaxel said. “My arm felt good today. Sometimes I’m a little sore going into it but today I felt good. I knew in the first inning it was going to be a good game.”

“He’s got the good curveball which keeps people off, and he hits his spots,” Fernandes said. “He’s not gonna kill ‘em with strikeouts but he gets ground balls and gets the outs we need.”

Grit claimed a 2-0 lead in the first with a pair of unearned runs. Brandon Ortiz scored on an infield error on a two-out ground ball by Bryce Tesseyman, and he scored two batters later on an Alex Moynihan single. 

That was really the only trouble Diamond Jacks starter Andrew Furda had through the first three innings. The Grit bats came alive in the fourth inning, scoring five runs on four hits.

Grit loaded the bases and Furda nearly escaped when he got an infield fly for the second out, but the next three batters were Furda’s undoing. Lucas Coseo was hit by a pitch to force in a run, Danny Marchiana doubled home two runs and David Firsenbaum belted a two-run RBI triple, which was nearly caught by a diving Lud Ashley in right field. 

“I pitched in college and usually you’re trying to get the ball over the plate with the first pitch, so I tell them to look for that and attack it,” Fernandes said. I tell them to be aggressive early in the count and attack the first pitch.” 

Furda went 3⅔ innings for the Diamond Jacks and allowed seven runs (five earned) on eight hits, one walk and one hit batsman, and he struck out three. Ashley relieved Furda and allowed an RBI single by Lucas Lanzo in the fifth. Ashley walked two and struck out one.

Grit was slated to play Morris County Cubs Navy later on Saturday, and Hustle Baseball on Sunday at 8 a.m.

The Diamond Jacks were to face Hustle later on Saturday, and the Cubs on Sunday at 8 a.m.

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