Landon Pinho drove in three runs for the Jersey Boyz 16U squad in the Mid-Summer Classic.
By Rich Bevensee
It appears a talented crop of young sluggers has emerged for the Jersey Boyz Baseball program, and they could not have arrived at a better time.
The Jersey Boyz have struggled mightily to score runs this summer, but on a sweltering Saturday afternoon the youngsters took a huge step forward, and perhaps even provided a glimpse of what’s to come.
Landon Pinho, a rising sophomore at St. Peter’s Prep, directed a 13-run barrage with two hits and three RBI, and the Jersey Boyz utilized a seven-run fourth inning to come from behind and wallop Coal Region Sports of northeastern Pennsylvania, 13-6, in the 16U Mid-Summer Classic at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Perhaps the offensive barrage provided the Jersey Boyz young roster with a much-needed jolt of confidence. The 16U team had scored a combined 13 runs in eight winless trips to Diamond Nation this summer.
“Everything was good about today,” Pinho said. “The dugout was loud, it was throwing off the other pitchers, we were all getting hits, all putting the ball in play and making stuff happen. Winning is a lot better than being down by that much and we’ve been there already.”
Pinho finished 2-for-4 with a huge two-run, opposite-field single in that critical fourth inning. Also adding a two-run single that inning was leadoff man and shortstop Jaden Carpien, a rising junior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood. Rising St. Peter’s junior Tyler DeRocco smacked a two-run double down the right field line in the fourth.
Devin Aiken, a rising freshman at Seton Hall Prep who has done nothing but hit since he was elevated to the 16U squad, reached safely three times in four plate appearances, collected a base hit and scored three times. He went 2-for-3 in the Jersey Boyz’ 8-2 loss to Delmarva Baseball Prospects 2024 American on Friday.
And rising Westfield junior, Julian Montez, blasted a solo home run to right field, a no-doubt-about-it moon shot which may or may not have clanged off a NASA satellite. It was his second homer in as many days, as he rocked a 370-foot shot to right center on Friday.
“We came with more intensity today, more attitude, and we might have found that spunk for our team, because the bats just woke up,” said Jersey Boyz coach Brian Bolineau, a former standout at Rutgers-Newark. “We have a very unique situation where we have eighth graders going into freshman year and sophomores going into junior year, so we have that wide range, and it’s worked out well.”
Aiken, who has yet to play a single inning of high school ball, does not seem fazed playing against varsity letter winners this summer.
“I have a hitting coach, and my dad (Chris) taught me how to stay back and rotate through the ball,” Aiken said. “I feel like I’m one of the best players out there when I play. I have that confidence in my talent. Scoring runs was really fun today. We had good team energy all around.”
“Devin has been hitting the ball every single weekend and that’s impressive,” Bolineau said.
Jared Carlucci, a rising junior at Columbia High in Maplewood making his debut for the Jersey Boyz 16U squad, got the win after pitching three innings and allowing four runs on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts.
The hard-throwing righty – his fastball reached 84 mph on the radar and hovered in the low 80s – cruised through the first two innings, allowing one run on two hits and two walks. Coal Region did scratch up Carlucci in the third inning for three runs on three hits and two walks to build a 4-2 lead.
“I felt I had a very solid first two innings, but my velocity dipped a little after that and I didn’t have my command as much as I wanted it to be,” Carlucci said. “But overall it kept us in the game and got the job done. It was really good to see the young guys getting out there and helping us get a W.”
Trailing by two runs in the top of the fourth, the Jersey Boyz manufactured a seven-run fourth with six hits and three walks, by far their biggest offensive inning of the season. Ray Stein (St. Peter’s) and Matt Perrotto (Union) safely laid down back-to-back bunts to get things started, and Riordan Pickett (Columbia) socked an opposite-field RBI single to right.
Ryan Kessler (New Providence) walked to load the bases and Carpien drove a two-run single through the middle for a 5-4 Jersey Boyz lead. DeRocco followed Carpien with a two-run shot of his own, an opposite-field double which curled into the right field corner and made the score 7-4.
Aiken walked and Pinho made it 9-4 with a two-run single up the middle.
“I’m really proud of how I’ve been hitting,” Pinho said. “I’m just trying to stay simple, and not have it in my mind that there’s a lot of players out there older than me. I’m playing it like any other game, trying to move runners over and get them into scoring position.”
Robby Roth, a rising right-handed junior at New Providence, took over for Carlucci in the fourth. He held Coal Region to two runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts in three innings.
Coal Region cleanup hitter Drew Yagodzinskie roughed up Roth with a two-run double in the fifth inning, cutting his team’s deficit to 9-6.
But in the top of the sixth, the Jersey Boyz added salt to the wound, scoring two runs on an infield error on a Pinho grounder, and another run when Aiken scored on a double steal.
And then Montez launched his rocket, and everyone in attendance, even the players who were waiting to play the next game on Diamond Nation’s Field 3, were awed by the shot.
“It helped when Julian went yard yesterday, and going yard again today,” Bolineau said. “We were feeding off that, for sure.”
For Coal Region, Yagodzinskie, a rising sophomore at Mount Carmel Area High in Mount Carmel, Pa., finished 3-for-3 with two doubles and five RBI.
Coal Region starter Noah Shimko, an imposing righty who entered the game with a 0.52 ERA in 14 summer innings, surrendered eight earned runs on four hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in 3⅔ innings. His relief, lefty Hunter Sharrow, yielded five runs on two hits and five walks and a hit batsman with four strikeouts in 2⅓ innings.