North Jersey Heat 12U already in mid-summer form

By DN WRITING STAFF | March 30, 2024

Matthew Gillock reaches for a pitch for North Jersey Heat 12U.

By Rich Bevensee

Making its first tournament appearance of 2024, the North Jersey Heat 12U squad batted as if it was a mid-summer tournament. It seemed that with base runners aboard, no at bat was wasted.

And that was especially true with two outs.

With Will Vieira and Ben DelConte swinging the biggest bats, the Heat scored all of its runs with two outs and mercy ruled NES Knights White 11-1 in a 12U Easter Extravaganza pool play contest on Friday afternoon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“We’re all very excited,” Vieira said. “With this talent I think we can win a lot of tournaments and have a successful year.”

The Heat improved to 1-1 and will face Jersey Boyz (0-2) on Saturday at 10 a.m. to complete pool play. Earlier Friday the Heat bowed 6-3 to Flores Baseball Braves Red Scout (2-0).

The 12U semifinals are at 2:15 p.m. and the final is slated for 4:30 p.m.

The Knights also split Friday’s pool games. Earlier they beat the PRD Pride Noodles, 14-4. The Knights finish up pool play against the FB Braves Saturday at 12:15 p.m.

The righty-hitting Vieira ignited the Heat by going 2-for-3 with a pair of opposite field, two-run doubles. DelConte, who allowed two hits over four innings, helped his cause with a pair of RBI singles.

Also for the Heat, Chris Ricca had an RBI single, and Griffin Vidal and Anthony Palo each forced in a run with bases-loaded walks.

“We’re aggressive at the plate, we swung at a lot of good pitches and put the ball in play,” said Heat coach Ron Ricca, who saw seven of his 12 batters earn a base hit. “When we do that good things happen.”

Derek Gorlich scores the first run of the game for North Jersey Heat 12U.

DelConte was effective if not overpowering. The young lefty permitted one run on two hits and no walks and struck out five. 

The only time he allowed a Knights batter to reach scoring position came in the top of the fourth inning when Dylan Yirce sent a curling double into the right field corner and later scored on a Tristan King groundout. 

“I mixed in a curveball with my fastball and that’s it,” DelConte said. “I throw it (the curveball) a lot. Especially to big strong hitters, I normally go curveball to get strike one.”

“Ben was the MVP today,” Ricca said. “He mixes everything up. He works in and out, up and down. His offspeed is untouchable. We always have confidence when number 13’s on the mound.”

The Heat went to work in the bottom of the second inning, rallying for six runs with two outs. 

Chris Ricci blooped an RBI single into right field and DelConte sent a run-scoring single up the middle before Vieira dropped his first two-run double inside the right field line. Vidal and Palo then walked with the bases loaded for a 6-0 Heat lead.

In the third, Derek Gorlich scored on a fielding error, DelConte singled home two runs and Vieira doubled in two more runs for an 11-0 bulge. 

Vieira, who does a nice job covering the plate with his bat, expressed a mature approach to hitting which belies his age.

“I personally want to hit the ball to right center because everyone tries to pull the ball and they end up rolling over,” Vieira said. “So I just want to work middle and right center.

“Every cage swing, I don’t try to crush the ball because cage home runs don’t mean anything. Every pitch I work on getting up the middle and right center and in the game it shows.”

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