All the gears in the finely tuned NJ Renegades engine seemed to be humming along smoothly through its first weekend of play as the Bergen County club rolled to the 13U Spring Invitational championship at Diamond Nation.
The Renegades struck for seven runs in the top of the third inning on the way to an 11-7 victory over the Diamond Jacks Super 13U in the tournament’s championship game on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t the efficiency of the Renegades unit alone that turned one’s head, it was the team’s high energy and willingness to do all of the little things that lead to victory. Whether it was stealing bases, squeezing in a run or simply working the count to their favor, the Renegades were all in for their season opening weekend.
Evan Radoncic’s bases-clearing double and a two-run single by winning pitcher Junzen Sarza keyed the big third inning and the Diamond Jacks pitchers contributed to their own demise by issuing six walks in the inning.
“It was a total team effort and that’s what we emphasize,” said Renegades coach Mike Bellovich. “We play all year together. I think we were together 270 days the past year and it shows.”
The Renegades were churning as if in mid-season form and showed an ability, too, to tack on important runs late.
The Diamond Jacks trailed 9-2 before scoring two runs in the third inning and three more runs in the fourth to draw within 9-7. But the long third inning was a killer for the 1:50 game clock, guaranteeing the Super 13U squad wouldn’t get more than one more at bat in the fifth inning.
That put the onus on the Renegades’ lineup in the top of the fifth to provide reliever Jack Portman with a bit more breathing room. And it did just that.
Cleanup hitter Ryan McCabe drew a leadoff walk, stole second, reached third on Sarza’s single to center field and scored on Radoncic’s fielder’s choice grounder. Sarza, who had stolen second base and took third on the bouncer, broke for home on a delayed steal and slid in safely for an 11-7 Renegades lead.
Portman issued a one out walk to Matt Baker in the bottom of the fifth but would strikeout the side around that base on balls to close out the victory for the Renegades. The Renegades stole seven bases and Aiden Ogando squeezed home a run in the second inning.
“We have a winning mentality,” said Bellovich. “We get after it and everyone is on board. We came out on fire this weekend.”
Ogando’s successful suicide squeeze bunt that scored Sarza typified the Renegades’ willingness to find an assortment of ways to score runs.
The Diamond Jacks certainly had their moments, as well. Baker, the No. 3 hitter, drove in one run in the first inning on a sac fly and another run in the third on a double. The Super 13U’s leadoff hitter, Alex Schwark, stepped in with one out in the third and ripped a shot to straightaway center field that went for an inside-the-park home run.
Cole Raymond led off the second inning for the Diamond Jacks with a booming triple to left-center field. Raymond later scored on the back end of a double steal.
The Diamond Jacks put together a three-run rally in the fourth triggered by Alex Famolari’s one-out single to left-center field. Brandon Lall’s double to left field chased Famolari to third. Danny Contiliano’s bouncer to the right side scored Famolari and Brian Tulli would single home Lall. Tulli later scored on an error to shave the deficit to 9-7.
Diamond Jacks Super 14U 10, S.J. Young Guns 1
The Diamond Jacks overcame an early loss in the 14U Spring Invitational to storm to the championship. The Super 14U (3-1) squad defeated the S.J. Young Guns (3-1) in the championship game to cap off their opening weekend of the season.
The Diamond Jacks outscored their tournament opponents 33-7 and Jayden Capindica and Anthony DeNora shared the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
“It was a bit of a struggle at the plate to start, with it being our first time seeing live pitching,” said Super 14U coach Walter Cleary. “I was very happy to see the boys bounce back on Sunday and overcome some of the struggles they had on Saturday. We put together a lot of very good at bats and Denora, Capindica and Dylan Wayne started the ball rolling offensively with deep at bats and several hits.
“And you could see all the hard work this winter paying off for our pitchers. They dominated this weekend.”
Diamond Jacks Super 12U 5, Taconic Rangers 3
Mike Meyers limited the Rangers to two runs on five hits over five innings and Sandro Salomone earned the save to give the Diamond Jacks the 12U Spring Invitational championship. Meyers navigated the dangerous Rangers lineup on an efficient 48 pitches.
The Rangers entered the final having scored 69 runs in their first four games but Meyers and Salomone were able to guide the Super 12U safely through that gauntlet of a lineup.
Neo Diaz ripped a clutch two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to turn a taught 3-2 edge into a more comfortable 5-2 advantage for the Diamond Jacks. Salomone went 2-for-2 in the game and Jacob Lilienthal went 1-for-2 and scored two runs.
Diamond Jacks Super 11U 13, Braves 6
The Super 11U had it going at the plate and on the mound on the way to the 11U Spring Invitational championship.
Remington Mortman and Luca Catanzarite spearheaded a 64-run output by the 4-0 Diamond Jacks. Mortman went 6-for-12 with two doubles, two HR and 10 RBI. He also scored seven runs. Mortman’s three-run HR keyed an eight-run first inning that sent the Super 11U on its way in the final.
Catanzarite hit a two-run HR in the championship game to cap a weekend in which he went 8-for-16 with six doubles, the HR and nine RBI. He also scored six runs.
On the mound, Parker Klug and Ryan Depp got the Diamond Jacks out of the gate in fine fashion, permitting just a single run combined as the team’s bats rolled to an 11-0 and 11-1 victory in their first two games.
“Whenever you come out and throw strikes you give the game a pace,” said Super 11U coach Travis Anderson. “Parker and Ryan did that. Parker was terrific in our first game and Ryan threw the daylights out of it in the second game. I was so impressed how Ryan handled men on base and didn’t panic. You couldn’t ask for more out of your first two starting pitchers in a tournament.”
Sam DeLaurier and Gianni Franzoni combined to contain the Braves in the championship game. “We got that big lead and they did what we needed them to do, attack the zone,” said Anderson. “They both did an outstanding job.”
The Diamond Jacks Super 11U outscored their tournament opponents 64-25. The Braves (3-1) held a 46-20 runs advantage on their opponents.
Sandlot Baseball Academy 6, EEP Bandits S.I. 1
Sandlot Baseball Academy defeated EEP Bandits S.I., 6-1, in the 10U Spring Invitational championship game. Sandlot Baseball (4-0) outscored its opponents 45-13. EEP Bandits S.I. (2-2) held a 22-20 runs advantage on its opponents.
FB Braves 5, RCBC Marucci Nationals 4
FB Braves edged RCBC Marucci Nationals, 5-4, in the 9U Spring Invitational championship game. The Braves (4-0) outscored their opponents 39-6. RCBC (3-1) held a 51-7 runs advantage on its opponents.