Marquez ignites Dodgers Nation in 12U King of the Diamond

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 13, 2024

Aayden Marquez rounds third after his first inning home run for Dodgers Nation 12U.

By Rich Bevensee

By his own estimation, Aayden Marquez was severely lacking the skills it took to be feared in the batter’s box when he was a Little Leaguer.

But after a few years under the tutelage of Dodgers Nation Select 12U coach Christian Byrnes, the young man from Long Island is now one of his team’s best hitters.

“Man, it was frustrating. I was hitting the ball nowhere,” Marquez said. “It took a little while to get used to, but Coach helped me get better at opening my back shoulder. I’ve been practicing it in games and I’ve gotten so much better.”

Marquez was one of the biggest reasons why Dodgers Nation was able to piece together a 10-run third inning en route to a 12-2, four-inning victory over the Saratoga-Wilton Blue Sox in 12U King Of The Diamond pool play on Saturday morning at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

Marquez, who blasted a laser over the center field fence for a solo home run in the first inning, crushed an RBI double in the third as the Dodgers turned a one-run game into a mercy-rule contest.

Not only was Marquez a force offensively, going 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored, he turned in one of the game’s top defensive plays. In the top of the fourth, Blue Sox No. 2 hitter Brody Rigabar hit a fly ball that reached the center field wall and bounded into right center. Marquez quickly tracked it down and threw to third to throw out Rigabar trying to stretch a double into a triple. 

“He is one of my favorite kids I’ve ever had,” Byrnes said. “I’ve seen him throw people out at first base from center field on a regular basis. His athleticism is off the charts. His power, his speed, his whole game is one of the best I’ve ever seen for that age.”

Byrnes recalled seeing Marquez for the first time and noting that while he was raw, he held a tremendous upside in terms of talent. 

“He came from a Little League program a few years back and he was like a wild stallion,” Byrnes said. “He had to get broken down a little but he really buys into what I’ve been teaching him.”

Rigabar got the Blue Sox on the board first with an RBI groundout in the top of the first, but Marquez’ homer in the bottom of the first tied the game at 1-1. 

Mason Hemraj pushed the Dodgers into the lead for good in the second inning when he scored on a double steal. 

The Dodgers’ third-inning, 10-run flurry – fueled by 10 hits and two errors – kicked off when Jack Mahoney, pinch-running for pitcher Nick Greco, scored on a throwing error for a 3-1 lead. Then the fireworks began with some hard hit baseballs.

Marquez slammed an RBI double. Jonah Krolick slapped a two-run single before Matt Newman crushed a two-run triple to center. And then came the Dodgers’ second home run of the game, as lefty-hitting Gunnar Nelson cranked a line drive over the right center field fence for a two-run shot and a 10-1 lead.

Diego Scotland had two off the three Saratoga-Wilton Blue Sox hits.

Greco singled for the second time in the inning and soon thereafter scored on an error. Marquez forced in the final run with a bases-loaded walk. 

Greco pitched three innings and allowed one run on one hit, walked one and struck out two. Nelson allowed one run in the final inning on two hits and struck out one.

Another defensive standout for the Dodgers was shortstop Jasper Persaud, who turned in a pair of sparkling plays. In the first inning he scooped up a sure base hit up the middle to throw out Connor Bay. 

In the second inning Blue Sox batter Chase Linner hit a liner which Greco nearly snared on the mound but the ball bounded into the hole at short. Persaud, who was tracking the ball up the middle, turned back to the hole, somehow gloved it and threw to first in time to get Linner. 

“Our defense is great but our offense has been hitting like crazy,” Marquez said. “We have some innings where we get shut down, and Coach tells us to pick ourselves back up and by the third inning, we just start hitting. 

“We’ve got some good players and we’re gonna kick some butt this year.”

The Dodgers definitely have a talented roster. They returned most of their roster from last year which won four tournaments and defeated the New York Longhorns, then ranked No. 1 in the state.

“This is only our fifth game of the season but we have high expectations,” Byrnes said. “Half of them have been playing up with me for a while now. This team is gonna go far.”

The Dodgers arrived in Flemington hoping to conclude the weekend with a full tournament slate. They’ve played a pair of doubleheaders, one of which was in a Long Island tournament which got rained out.

The Dodgers were to face Connecticut Grind Carolina later Saturday, and the Roberto Clemente Pirates on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. to conclude pool play. The semifinals are at 6:30 p.m. and the final is at 8:30 p.m.

The Blue Sox were to face the RC Pirates on Saturday and the Grind on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

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