By Sean Reilly
It was a game full of drama, but was decided by some basic baseball.
NY Giants/Sluggers Academy pitcher Ryan Lemm relied throughout on a dominating fastball, and teammate Alex Fernandez succeeded on his goal of putting nerves aside and just making contact in a tie-score, bases-loaded, nobody out at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The result was a 3-2 triumph for their team over USA Prime Northeast Gold for the championship of the Diamond Nation 11U Battle At The Turf on Sunday evening in Flemington.
Lemm, the tournament MVP, pitched a no-hitter by pounding the strike zone with fastballs that started out at 69 MPH in the first inning and remained in the mid 60s throughout the game. He struck out 11 and walked two batters. As the Giants’ cleanup hitter, he also supplied a one-out RBI single in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead. The Bronx-based team added another run that inning on a throwing error.
USA Prime rallied on an unearned run in the fourth and a manufactured score in the fifth to tie the game, which set up the pivotal bottom of the sixth.
The Giants began that frame with singles by Zachary Rosario, Edward Garcia and Sebastian Mejia to load the bases for Fernandez, the eighth batter in the lineup.
The count went full before Fernandez ended the game with a single to right field that set off a wild celebration.
“I was nervous,” he said. “I was kind of shocked to swing, but I went through it and I got the hit. It felt awesome because it’s a good memory, but it’s good for the team, too, because we got the championship.”
The victory completed a 4-0 weekend for the Giants, who outscored their opponents, 53-8.
Lemm hit well throughout, before adding on the pitching assignment in the final. And with the way he was throwing heat, there was really no need to do much more than pound the zone with fastball after fastball.
“I felt in control,” he said. “This was a fun weekend. I like it here. I love playing on turf. I’m not really a grass person.”
USA Prime, which took a 3-0 record into the final, showed heart in hanging in against Lemm, whose speed was about 10 to 15 MPH faster than a typical 11U pitcher.
USA Prime closed to 2-1 in the fourth inning, when Matt Bocolo reached on a one-out error, advanced on a wild pitch and then scored when Stephen Pio was safe on an infield throwing error.
USA Prime forged a 2-2 tie in the fifth, which began with Ryan Jaeger drawing a leadoff walk. Jaeger stole second base before the next batter struck out. He crossed to third when Benny Curcio grounded out to shortstop and scored on a wild pitch with Mason Klose at the plate.
The winning rally for the Giants began with the hit by Rosario, who hit .800 on the weekend, and ended with the single by Fernandez, who had fouled off the first 3-2 offering.
“I was really nervous,” he said. “But I saw a good pitch and I hit it.
“I love it here,” he added. “It was our first tournament, our first win and first championship, and we all had fun.”