MVP Lucca leads RCBC Ghost charge to 14U Labor Day Blast title

By DN WRITING STAFF | September 5, 2023

By Rich Bevensee

This most recent baseball championship has capped such an incredible streak of success, it’s fair to wonder how it was sustained for an entire summer.

When Aaron Vasquez’ two-run single dropped into right field, it sealed a 13-3, four-inning victory over FS Prime and the Labor Day Blast 14U title for the Richmond County Baseball Club Ghost 14U Nationals on Monday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

Moreover, it was the 22nd straight victory for the Ghost ballclub and its fourth straight tournament title – one Perfect Game crown and three more earned at Diamond Nation. 

Want to push the envelope even further? The Labor Day Blast championship represented Ghost’s seventh (!) title of the summer. 

“I know it’s remarkable,” RCBC coach Vinny Nichilo said. “Anything can happen in any game. Anyone can knock you off at any time. To win 22 in a row means we’re playing great baseball. But really, the last two months these kids have been on fire.”

In this most recent triumph, nine of 11 Ghost batters reached safely, seven registered base hits and scored at least once, and six recorded an RBI. 

“We’re deep. Anyone can hit the ball,” said leadoff hitter Gabe Lucca, who singled, walked twice and scored three times. “Anyone in a big situation can get a hit, anyone can make a play. It’s great to watch everyone hitting the ball because you have faith in everyone.”

Ghost outscored the opposition 73-9 in its six-win ride to the title. It defeated the Pelicans, 11-0, in the semifinals, while Prime dismissed Bucks County Generals Black, 11-1, in the other semi. 

It’s something that’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence all summer for Ghost, and it has culminated here at Diamond Nation, as three of Ghost’s last four titles came here on campus. 

Before this weekend, RCBC was playing as a 13U team. It won the Garden State Invitational July 24-27, and the Summer Finale Aug. 25-27. In its three most recent ‘Nation’ appearances, Ghost has gone 17-0 and outscored the opposition 186-30.

Lucca, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, went 10-for-12 over Labor Day Weekend, and in the final he pitched a complete-game four-hitter with three walks, a hit batsman and five strikeouts.

Gabe Lucca of RCBC Ghost 14U National was named 14U Labor Day Blast MVP.

“The MVP means I played well but it really doesn’t mean that much because it was a team effort,” said Lucca, who is about to begin his freshman year at St. Joseph By The Sea in Staten Island, N.Y.

“I’m a little nervous but really excited at the same time,” he said. “In Staten Island they don’t have middle school sports so it’s the first time I get to play for my school. I’m excited because a lot of my friends are going there and my parents went there. I love the school.”

Lucca was one of many heroes for Ghost in the final. Anthony Tepedino, the team’s cleanup hitter, opened the floodgates for a six-run first inning when he crushed a three-run double to left. 

Vasquez, of course, had the two-run single which ended the game and went 2-for-3. Shortstop Tyler Stern had a two-run single. Anthony Gaglia had two RBI, one on a sacrifice fly and another on a groundout. Dan Ducalo also had a sac fly. Christian Winter, the team’s No. 11 hitter, tripled to the deepest part of center field, and he added an RBI groundout.

“Our team this weekend, it’s one of our best weekends hitting,” said Tepedino, also preparing for his freshman year at St. Joseph By The Sea. “Once we start scoring, we just keep on hitting and hitting. That’s the case most of the time. I think it’s because our energy gets hyped up – we’re filled with adrenaline.”

Lucca surrendered two runs in the top of the third inning, both unearned. Leadoff hitter Mike Angelo hit an RBI double to center to score Ben Cafarelli, who reached on an error. Courtesy runner Ben Pahang scored from third after an errant pickoff attempt at second. 

Prime added one more run in the fourth, when Cafarelli singled to right and Christian Trabosh scored on an outfield error. 

Mike Karle, Caleb Lopez, Caleb Kassakert, Luke Sedgwick and Angelo all took short turns on the bump for Prime.

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