The DJacks 15U Gold’s Nolan Fuller drove in the go-ahead run in the team’s 6-1 victory.
By Rich Bevensee
Well after his Diamond Jacks 15U Gold team celebrated a tournament-opening win and headed for the exits, Will Macken was still blissfully unaware he executed one of the most difficult tasks in baseball.
And when he was informed of his accomplishment, Macken, a rising sophomore at Immaculata, simply smiled and said, “That’s cool.”
That laid-back demeanor is only a portion of what makes Macken such an integral part of the Diamond Jacks pitching staff. The lanky 6-1, 165-pound righty pitched a no-hitter for six innings and propelled the Diamond Jacks to 6-1 victory over Pro Skills 15U on Monday afternoon in both teams’ opening game in the Super 15 Invitational at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
Nolan Fuller, a rising sophomore at Easton High (Pa.), stroked two RBI singles to pace the Diamond Jacks offense, and nine of the 10 DJacks batters chalked up at least one base hit in an 11-hit attack.
“I was pleased with all aspects of the game – pitching, defense, timely hitting,” Diamond Jacks coach Chris Brown said. “It was a really well played game all around.”
Macken, who pitched well during the team’s trip to Georgia for a showcase tournament, continued his mastery on Monday, facing just four batters over the minimum with three walks and one hit batsman while striking out one. He pitched to contact effectively, allowing his defense to retire the Pro Skills batters without a single error.
“I was feeling good through all six innings,” said Macken, who mostly employed his fastball and slider. “I was getting a little off target in the fourth and found the groove in the fifth and sixth. Usually I’m off because I’m doing too much on the mound and losing mechanics, so I just simplify everything. I think I was able to keep them off balance with my windup. I was messing with my timing and taking a little longer and sometimes going a little faster.”
Macken allowed a run in the first inning when Danny Cutrupi walked, took second and third on wild pitches and scored on a Jeff Conard ground out.
Macken stranded a runner at second base in the second inning, and no other Pro Skills baserunner reached scoring position after that.
“What I liked about what Will did is he actually got himself out of trouble and got outs when he needed them,” Brown said. “When it comes down to crunch time, that’s when you gotta’ bear down and make your pitches, and that’s what he did.
“He’s had a couple good performances this summer. He threw really well down in Georgia, and today was another great day.”
Another crucial factor in the Diamond Jacks victory was their ability to produce clutch hits. Specifically, they strung together three straight two-out hits in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Jeff Conard drove in Pro Skills’ only run in the first inning.R
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Soren Gregor led off by reaching on an infield error before Pro Skills starter Ben Warren retired the next two batters.
After Gregor stole second and took third on the ensuing overthrow, Matt Kurek drove him in with a single to center. Mike Brunetti followed with another single to center, and Liam Coyle belted an RBI double to the left-center field gap, scoring Kurek.
Just two innings earlier, the Diamond Jacks saw their first four batters reach safely and scored a single run, but they left the bases loaded. So the fifth-inning rally was just the type of grit Brown was looking for.
“We had the one inning where we had the bases loaded and no outs and we couldn’t push one across, and then in the fifth we got the job done,” Brown said. “It showed me concentration, confidence, and the utmost focus. It showed me they are all ready to be the guy who wants to drive them in and not be timid. They are being aggressive and want to be that guy who gets the job done.”
Fuller, the Diamond Jacks’ left fielder batting in the No. 2 hole, was responsible for pushing the Diamond Jacks ahead for good in the third inning with his RBI infield single, which gave his team a 2-1 lead. He collected another RBI single in the sixth which produced the final margin.
“He’s been consistent all season,” Brown said of Fuller. “Even when he’s not getting hits he’s on the barrel. He hits balls hard and consistently, and when you do that you’re going to put the percentages in your favor.”
Fuller said he was not always the man who came through with big hits. He admitted to slogging through a miserable 2021 summer campaign, and he dedicated himself to developing a new approach over the winter.
“Last summer I was taking a ton of pitches, even fastballs down the middle,” Fuller said. “Now a lot of what I do is because of my approach. I’m trying to swing early in the count, and I look away (for pitches on the outer half of the plate) because you can’t really look in and adjust away, but you can always look away and adjust in.
“With a right-hander on the mound, let’s say he’s got a good breaking ball. Usually his breaking ball is breaking away and if I’m sitting on pitches away, that helps me put the ball into the opposite field.”
Jesse Allen was responsible for getting the Diamond Jacks on the board, stroking a one-out single up the middle to score Mike Brunetti in the second inning.
In the sixth, Justin Silvius roped a double into the left field corner to score C.J. Banos, giving the D-Jacks a 5-1 lead.
Brunetti relieved Mackey for the seventh inning and allowed one hit and one walk and struck out one.
“Ever since we got back from Georgia (prior to the July 4 weekend), which pretty much kicked off our summer, we’ve been playing well,” Brown said. “We went 1-6 down there but we played well. We played some great competition and only one loss was by more than three runs. Ever since then we’ve been playing the game the right way, taking extra bases when we have to, throwing to the right base, timely hitting, bunting, sac bunting, safety squeezing. Getting better every day.”
For Pro Skills, Warren yielded four runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings. Ryan Anastasio pitched an inning of relief and permitted two runs on three hits.
The Diamond Jacks are back in action Tuesday to face Morris County Cubs Navy at 2:15 p.m. The rest of their Super 15 slate includes a clash with 3Up3Down Baseball on Wednesday at 8 a.m., and a showdown with 15U Nor’Easters Runbird National on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
Pro Skills has a doubleheader on the slate for Tuesday, as it faces Team Elite Liberty 15U at 6:30 p.m. and Bucks County Generals 2025s at 8:30 p.m. Pro Skills winds up its week on Thursday, against the New Jersey Nationals at 12:15 p.m.