Lahey reasserts mojo in DJacks Gold 13U Spring Classic victory

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 6, 2024

Nico Zamora of the Diamond Jacks Gold 13U gets a good look at a BC Prospects pitch Saturday.

By Rich Bevensee

As high as Connor Lahey was flying with his performance at the plate in the first month of the season, one 0-for-7 weekend brought him plunging back to earth with doubts about his ability to hit a baseball.

It’s a common theme with athletes, who are sometimes their own worst enemies. Count Lahey among that group.

“It was frustrating,” Lahey said. “Knowing you’re a good hitter and not hitting well is the worst because you’re trying to get over that bad attitude.”

As downtrodden as Lahey was a week ago, one big hit this weekend lifted his spirits – and his Diamond Jacks Gold 13U team. 

With the Diamond Jacks and Bergen County Prospects battling in a one-run game, Lahey delivered a ringing two-run triple to provide some insurance in an eventual 5-1 pool play victory in the 13U Spring Classic on Saturday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

That gave the Diamond Jacks a 2-0 record on the day. They would go on to finish pool play 3-0, defeat Wladyka Baseball American, 8-5, in the semifinals, and lose to the Out Of The Park Cyclones Prospects, 10-0, in the championship game. 

As Lahey spoke of his triumph at the plate, he looked as though a snow day had been called on the eve of a big exam.

“The first few tournaments I was in the middle of the pack, hitting around .300 or .400, but the last tournament I went 0-for-7 so I was trying  to bounce back with a big hit this tournament,” Lahey said. “I’m always really, really hard on myself when I’m striving to do the best I can, and it seemed like I wasn’t making a good connection.

“This week I tried to prepare myself mentally to think even if you don’t get a hit, get good quality at bats and help the team win the ballgame.”

So how did it feel for Lahey to lift that huge rock off his chest and get the bat going again?

“It felt absolutely great,” Lahey said. “I feel energized for the whole rest of the weekend, and all the tournaments to come. Definitely a breakthrough.”

Jack Liebensperger pitched three gritty innings for the Diamond Jacks, allowing one run on two hits and five walks with five strikeouts. The best part about Liebensperger’s outing was how he stranded two runners in the second inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third.

“I’ve known Jack since he was 11 and he’s always been a competitor. He’s gonna compete on every pitch,” Diamond Jacks coach Chris Brown said. “It’s all about damage control. He never let them get the big inning and he threw his curveball for strikes when he needed to. You never want to be in that situation, but then seeing him fighting out of it, he did a great job. It was awesome to watch.”

Liebensperger said he knew the curveball would be his ally from the start.

“The curveball worked well so I threw a lot of those when I was ahead,” Liebensperger said. “Even when I was behind, like, 2-0, I would throw a curveball because I can throw it for a strike every time.”

Liebensperger said he never gave any thought to how difficult conditions were on Saturday evening, with the temperatures dropping into the low 50s and a constant rain making it uncomfortable to grip the baseball.

“I was slipping a little bit out there but otherwise I felt good,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad because we’ve had worse conditions before. You just have to work with it.”

Liebensperger and Andrew Finarelli, who pitched the last two innings, were the beneficiaries of not one but two middle infield double plays, and a fine backhand ground ball stop by third baseman Liam Freyre. 

Finarelli surrendered two hits and one walk in his two scoreless innings. 

The Prospects struck first with a run in the top of the first, as Jason Rilli knocked in Vinnie Cerritelli with a groundout. 

In the second, Aidan Montesdioca tied the game with an RBI single to right which plated Gianni Franzoni. 

In the third, the Diamond Jacks created some breathing room with a four-run rally. Nico Zamrok doubled down the left field line to score Freyre with the go-ahead run. Lahey then belted a two-run triple into left, and he later scored on a balk.

The Diamond Jacks completed pool play by defeating the Brooklyn Storm, 5-1, the BC Prospects, 5-1, and Wladyka Baseball National, 9-2. 

The BC Prospects (2-1) triumphed over Wladyka National, 4-3, before bowing to the Diamond Jacks on Saturday. On Sunday, the Prospects defeated Brooklyn, 15-4.

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