Lorenzo Swain at the plate for the Central Jersey Rebels.
By Sean Reilly
John Kemler had plenty to feel good about on Saturday afternoon at Diamond Nation.
Kemler is the catcher for the Central Jersey Rebels 12U team, and his all-around game was on full display during his team’s opening contest in pool play against the Morris County Cubs White at the King of the Diamond Tournament.
The Cubs had a runner on second with one out in the top of the first when a single resulted in a strong throw home by right fielder Jaxson Bischoff. Kemler applied the tag at the plate for the second out of the inning. On a pitch to the next batter, Kemler zipped a pickoff throw to first baseman Alex Alonzo, who tagged the runner for the final out of the inning.
After that, it was all Rebels. The Mercer County-based team scored twice in the first inning and then erupted for 16 runs in the second, highlighted by Kemler’s first-ever grand slam, for an 18-0 victory.
“It felt great to have a game like that,” Kemler said. “But I’m happiest that we won, because I want to help my team. It was a lot of fun.”
The Rebels followed that victory by playing to a 4-4 tie against the Toms River Black Sox.
The Rebels (1-0-1) are still in contention for the pool championship, since they play the North Colonie Bison (2-0) in the last pool game for both on Sunday morning.
The Rebels started the first game quickly, with lead off man J.J. Bucchianico hitting a single to left field, before stealing second and scoring on a triple to right field by J.P. Santos. Nick Rizzo’s ground out to shortstop scored Santos.
It didn’t take long for the Rebels to put the game out of reach in the second inning. The first 14 Rebels batters reached base and scored against three different Cubs pitchers. Runs 11 through 14 in the inning came on Kemler’s grand slam over the fence in left field.
But it all started with the defense in the top of the first.
“The defense came through and played well,” Rebels coach Justin Bucchianico said. “Those are big plays that turned the game around. They were momentum swings. The boys did a good job.”
The Rebels overall season is off to an impressive start. They are 9-2-1 so far this spring.
“The competition is always good here,” the coach said of the action at Diamond Nation. “It’s a tough place to play. The fields run fast, the coaches come prepared, the kids come prepared. When you can get out to an early jump and get a win, it’s good confidence for the boys. It’s a good building block.”