By Rich Bevensee
Even for a spacious SUV, the four-hour ride home was going to be cramped.
There’s mom and dad in the front seat, and siblings Joe, 18, Jasper, 11, and Juliana, 6, to contend for middle and back seats.
Making things worse for Jacoby Cady, sleeping doesn’t come easy in the car, tonight’s a school night, and the family truckster may not get home until well after midnight.
But there was something to make the long ride home to Plainville, Mass. more comfortable. His North East Baseball – Wnukowski 14U team won a tournament championship in their first weekend of action at Diamond Nation in Flemington, and there was an additional piece of luggage in the family car — the 14U April Fool’s Tournament Most Valuable Player award.
On the strength of Cady’s pitching, hitting and fielding, the North East ballclub, based in Harvard, Mass., won four games on Sunday to cap an undefeated 5-0 weekend. The topper was a 5-0 shutout of the Diamond Jacks 14U Gold, the host program, in the April Fool’s championship game.
“I’m gonna go home pretty happy, you know?” Cady said. “Got a car full of family, maybe a little cramped, and I don’t sleep too well in cars. But this weekend’s been great. You put in what you get out, and I worked hard all winter to get here and I’m proud of that. I’m not too surprised at how I did but to take home this trophy is an honor.”
Cady singled, walked and made a putout in left field in the final. In the semifinal, a 7-4 victory over the Diamond Jacks Super 14U, Cady got the start and allowed one run on two hits in four innings.
Cady wasn’t counting hits but he collected a triple, two doubles and a handful of RBI this weekend.
“Jacoby was unbelievable,” North East coach Adam Wnukowski said. “He hit for us, he fielded for us, he pitched for us. Really, really good. He’s come a long way and he’s worked really, really hard in the gym so I’m happy for him.”
Jacob Honor and Jack Dorsey combined for the shutout in the five-inning championship game for North East. Honor, a lefty, allowed one hit and no walks and struck out four. Dorsey pitched two perfect innings in relief.
Honor and Dorsey are the first pitchers to shut out the Diamond Jacks Gold team in this young season. The Gold crew was 7-0-2 and had outscored the opposition 100-37 going into the final.
“We made pitches in the right spots and we made plays,” Wnukowski said. “So it came together pretty good, almost like we know what we’re doing.”
In the final, No. 2 hitter Joey Russo (2-for-3, double, two runs) got things started for North East in the top of the first when he singled to right field and eventually scored on an infield error.
Cam Fleming belted an RBI double to left center in the second inning, scoring Honor from first base. Caden Oldham added a sacrifice fly in the third inning for a 3-0 lead. In the fifth, Dom Driscoll walked and Oldham
doubled before Kyle Keaveney and Nick Fantasia each rapped RBI singles.
For the weekend, North East went 5-0 and outscored its opposition 44-13.
The North East program, which draws players from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, began the weekend with a Friday night 13-2 victory over the Long Island Bomb Cyclones.
North East continued pool play on Sunday with a 12-4 win over the New Jersey Marlins and a 7-3 verdict over the Connecticut Baseball Club. Then came a sweep of Diamond Jacks teams in the four-team playoff.
“I couldn’t expect it was going to turn out this good,” Wnukowski said of his team’s season-opening tournament. “The kids worked hard all winter, they came together pretty good and that’s the most important thing.”
“The way we play, we all trust each other, we’ve got a good connection and we play hard,” Cady said. “Now that we know where everyone belongs and how everything’s gonna roll, I think we’re set.”
The Gold team, which tied the Diamond Jacks Super team for the title two weeks ago in the season-opening Spring Invitational, went 4-1 this weekend. In pool play Gold 14U bested the Morris County Cubs (7-3), the Jersey Boyz (14-1) and Jersey Knights (9-1), and it won a slugfest with Generals Baseball Academy 20-16 in the semifinal.