Late homers help Diamond Baseball fend off Jays

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 11, 2022

Dylan Gardner of Diamond Baseball singles here and later homered in 12U World Series.

By Joe Hofmann

Dylan Gardner jogged around third base, looked up and saw a mob of teammates waiting for him at home plate.

“It was,” he said, “very exciting.”

Gardner had just sent a ball into orbit for a two-run homer to break a fifth-inning tie and lift Diamond Baseball Academy to an 8-5 victory over the New Jersey Jays in the 12U Diamond Nation World Series.

“He’s been coming through all year for us,” winning coach John Paul Bell said. “He’s been getting better. He’s been working really hard. He’s a quiet leader.”

The soft-spoken Gardner let his bat do his talking for him when his team needed him most.

Diamond Baseball dominated the game early, building a 6-1 lead after three innings, only to have the Jays battle back to tie it with four in the fourth and one in the top of the fifth to make it 6-6.

With Diamond Baseball seemingly out of gas, Gardner took matters into his own hands and belted his first home run of the summer as a Diamond player.

Teammate Matthew Wright gave his team a pulse when he led off the bottom of the fifth with a base hit.

Up stepped Gardner, who worked the count to 3-and-2 before launching a fastball down the middle over the fence.

“It felt great because it put us up,” he said. “It felt really good. I felt it when it left the bat.”

Two outs later, teammate Jake Smarili launched his first home run of the year for Diamond and it hit the left field foul pole to make it 8-5.

“It was very exciting for Jake as well,” Bell said. “He’s made a big commitment and has really come around the last couple of weeks.”

The victory culminated what has been a great couple of weeks for Diamond Baseball, which has made great strides lately.

Jays Brady Sponzo, left, holds on Dylan Gardner of Diamond Baseball, who is getting coached up in 12U World Series.

“We’ve been getting better this summer,” Bell said. “We actually started out slow but have gotten better. We’re also a tight-knit group and I think we’ll be dangerous for the next couple of years.”

The victory over the Jays can only tighten the team further.

Diamond Baseball jumped out early and appeared on the way to a blowout victory.

The team erupted for five runs in the bottom of the second inning. Charlie Dyke reached on an infield hit and was picked off, but the team picked him up.

David Norton doubled and Smarili singled before Dylan Fugaro hit an RBI single. One out later, leadoff man Colin Kidwell hit a two-run double and Teddy Heckman brought him in with a base hit to make it 5-0.

The Jays answered in the top of the third when No. 9 hitter Jake Budrewicz singled and stole second and came around to score on Nathan Plebani’s RBI double.

But Diamond Baseball got the run back when Gardner singled and stole second and scored on Norton’s RBI hit.

The Jays began chipping away and crawled back into the game in the fourth.

With one out, L.T. Parillo singled and scored on Drew Augusta’s RBI triple. Nicholas Bott followed with an RBI double before Luke Schhenkel greeted reliever Andrew Contorno with a two-run homer to right, drawing the Jays to within a run at 6-5.

Then in the fifth, the Jays tied it when Mason Corrie singled, stole second, and scored on Brady Sponzo’s single to make it 6-6.

But Gardner and Diamond Baseball were not done. The team looked out of gas at that point, but his long drive brought his team to life –  as evidenced by the crowd of players who greeted Gardner at the plate.

He concluded his trip around the bases by taking the bat from Fugaro and tapping it on home plate –  a Diamond Baseball home run ritual that Smarili repeated a short time later.

Very exciting, indeed.

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