Hot-hitting Hernandez sends FB Braves Select to 11U Easter championship

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 1, 2024

By Sean Reilly

The final at-bat for Jace Hernandez at the Diamond Nation 11U Easter Extravaganza had a fitting outcome.

Hernandez, the fifth batter in the Flores Baseball Braves 11U Select lineup, sent a full-count pitch over the center field fence, the ultimate blow for his team in a 13-5 victory over Dream Chasers 11U for the tournament championship on Saturday afternoon. 

The win completed a season-opening 4-0 weekend for the FB Braves 11U Select. The Fairfield-based team ended with a 49-13 run differential. 

The catalyst was Hernandez, the tournament MVP who went 2-for-2 and with a hit-by-pitch in the final, with three runs and one RBI. 

In four games, which included two on Friday and two on Saturday, he went 6-for-7 (.857) with seven runs and five RBI. He also walked three times and stole three bases. 

“I felt confident,” he said. “It was fun to be back out there. I was pretty locked in. I was thinking middle-middle and trying to drive the ball. This can give me confidence in myself for the rest of the year.” 

That’s what the early part of the season is about for the entire Braves organization, which also won the 9U and 10U titles during another successful weekend at ‘The Nation.’ Championship trophies are great, but the true prize is continued improvement and development throughout the months ahead.

The championship game on Saturday offered a rarity at Diamond Nation. Because of the six-team, single-pool format, the finalists met in back-to-back games on Field 4B. The Braves beat the New York-based Dream Chasers, 7-2, in the pool contest preceding the final. 

Between games, Braves coach A.J. Flores had a message for his players regarding the rematch – if they didn’t play so well beforehand, turn the page and start fresh. And if they did perform well, by all means keep it going. 

The Braves took those words to heart in the championship game. After pitcher Anthony Accurso had two strikeouts while throwing a clean top of the first, the team erupted for 10 runs in the bottom of the inning. 

It started with leadoff man Harry Velonas hitting a hard single into center field. Accurso and Johnny Batista walked to load the bases. 

Connor Schott was up next, and hit a grand slam over the fence in center field. 

The Braves reloaded the bases after Hernandez was hit by a pitch, Michael DeLorenzo walked and Jack McCloskey was also hit by a pitch. 

Nix Cordovano followed with a two-run single to right field for a 6-0 lead. With runners on first and second, the Dream Chasers recorded their first out on a force out at third. But David King Flores then reached on an error to reload the bases. 

Velonas drew a walk to score Cordovano with the seventh run, and Accurso drove in two more with a grounds rule double to left-center. Velonas scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch with Batista at the plate. 

The Braves flaunted their defense in the top of the second. A single by Blake Martinez, double from Ronan Mooney and full-count walk to David Nunez loaded the bases for the Dream Chasers with nobody out. Accurso struck out the next batter. The following hitter sent a fly ball to shallow right field that was caught by Cordovano running in shoe-string fashion. He then threw to Hernandez at first for the inning-ending double play.

Jace Hernandez of FB Braves 11U Select was named the MVP of the 13U Easter Extravaganza.

Hernandez led off the bottom of the second with a single through the right side. McCloskey walked with one out, and both would later score on a hit to right field by Cordovano. 

The Dream Chasers entered the fourth inning down 12-0, meaning they had to post three runs to avoid a mercy rule finish. Instead, they scored five against the Braves bullpen. 

The rally started with Dylan DeMuchiel leading off by hitting a full-count home run to center. Martinez walked, and Mooney drilled a home run beyond the fence in right-center. After the first out, Joseph McRae singled to center on a full count before Dylan Peralta singled to left field. 

Lucas Samuel followed with a grounds rule double to right field to score McRae, and Jake Benzinger grounded out to shortstop to bring in Peralta. 

Hernandez led off the bottom of the fourth with his home run, and then pitched a scoreless top of the fifth to close out the victory. 

Martinez ended 2-for-2 with a walk and Mooney was 2-for-3 for the Dream Chasers, who finished the tournament with a 2-2 record.

Aside from Hernandez, Cordovano also finished with two hits for the Braves.

Share With A Friend:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *