Niko West, who was 3-for-4 with two RBI, scores on wild pitch for NJ Rising Rebels 2027.
By Sean Reilly
The NJ Rising Rebels 2027 were in an unusual position in facing the North Jersey Diamondbacks on Friday night in the 14U Spring Fever Tournament at Diamond Nation.
The Rising Rebels, with players primarily from Essex and Morris counties, were playing immediately after suffering perhaps the rarest of all results at ‘The Nation, a 1-0, seven-inning loss against the PA Shockers 14U Blue.
The nightcap was markedly different. The Rising Rebels scored a quick run in the top of the first inning, and went on to record a 15-0, six-inning victory over the Diamondbacks and earn an opening-night split in Flemington.
Shane Varneckas threw five impressive innings for the win, allowing four hits with six strikeouts, all of them looking. He walked three in allowing the Rebels to end the night with a 15-1 run differential entering the third and final pool play game on Saturday against the TKR Reds (0-2).
“The first game was a tough loss, we were pretty disappointed,” Varneckas said. “We had to come back, and we did. We played well.”
Varneckas meshed with catcher Tore Sprague, who had an impressive all-around game. In addition to throwing out would-be base stealers in the first and second innings, he also went 3-for-4, and hit two triples and totaled three RBI as the Rising Rebels blew the game open by scoring nine runs in the sixth inning.
“I had run support and a nice defense behind me,” Varneckas said. “I could be more relaxed and be myself and work around the zone and use my different pitches. I definitely think my off-speed and my curveball were working pretty well. My catcher Tore and me have a really good chemistry.
We were working in and out, and on that outside pitch it just seemed the ump was giving it to me, so I kept pitching it there.”
After going scoreless in the opener against the Shockers, the Rising Rebels struck in the top of the first against the Diamondbacks. Ted Masino drew a one-out walk, stole second and and moved to third when Luke Hall flew out to third. Niko West then delivered an RBI single to left field, part of his 3-for-4, two RBI performance.
The Rising Rebels then sent up the top of the batting order in the third inning, and the first four hitters reached and scored for a 5-0 lead.
Dylan Temple got it started with a single, and he stole second before Masino walked. A passed ball moved them over to second and third before Hall smacked a triple to left center field. West followed with a RBI single to center, and he later scored on a wild pitch.
Hall led off the fifth inning by reaching on a walk, and he moved to third on West’s third straight hit. The next batter grounded into a double play, with Hall scoring for a 6-0 lead.
The massive sixth inning followed. Sprague was the big hitter in the inning, by tripling in the first run to right center and then tripling in two more runs with a hit to right field for a 14-0 score later in the frame. Both of those hits were followed by RBI singles from Patrick Jewell. The inning also included run-scoring singles by Kyle McBride and Varneckas.
“It was nice after that first game,” Varneckas said. “It was a really good pitchers duel and we weren’t making the little plays, but in this game we did and that’s why we won 15-0.”