By Sean Reilly
As both its leadoff hitter and starting pitcher, Matias Pelaez was in position to have a major impact for the Diamond Jacks Super 12U on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t just any assignment for the left-hander. It was for the championship of the Diamond Nation 12U Fall Harvest tournament, and it was also the team’s final game of the year.
He walked twice, doubled and scored two runs at the plate and pitched a one-hitter on the mound as Diamond Jacks Super 12U closed out the campaign by defeating the Jersey Shore Wildcats, 8-0, in Flemington.
The Wildcats are a hard-hitting bunch, but Pelaez held them in check by trying something new as he heads into some off-season rest.
“I usually don’t use my hips as much, but today I tried to open them as much as I can, and that was when the ball started flying out of my hand,” he said. “I’ve been seeing a lot of videos that say your hips can make your velocity get better, so I tried it and it worked out. It helped get a lot more ground balls and strikeouts.”
The Wildcats began the top of the first with Mike Keefe, their own leadoff spark, hitting a single to left field. Charlie Mahony then reached on an error that advanced Keefe to second.
With the heart of the order coming up, what followed was an early turning point: a grounder to shortstop which turned into a 6-4-3 double play. Pelaez then struck out the cleanup hitter to retire the side.
“That double play was really big,” he said. “It was an important situation, and we came up big.”
Pelaez then walked to begin the bottom of the inning. He was forced out on a grounder hit by Fenton Morrissey, but Morrissey stole second and then scored when Ryan Jezorwski reached on a two-base error. Jezorwski then scored on a two-out hit to the right side of the infield by Nicky Stangota for a 2-0 lead.
Pelaez, who ended the game with seven strikeouts and one walk, allowed only one ball – the single by Keefe – to reach the outfield. Of his other eight outs in the five-inning game, five were on ground balls, two were on infield pop ups and the other was on a pickoff at first base. It was a performance that earned him a share of the tournament MVP award with teammate Richard Griswold.
After Pelaez pitched a quick top of the second with two strikeouts and a ground out to second, Griswold led off the bottom of the inning with a double to center. He stole third and scored on a throwing error. Nico Comiskey was safe at first on a fielder’s choice ground out, stole second and third and then scored on a single from Logan Koziupa.
Pelaez pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the third, and was the leadoff man in the bottom of the inning. He walked, stole second and scored when Morrissey hit a home run which banged loudly off the scoreboard beyond the fence in right center. The Diamond Jacks added another run in the inning on a sacrifice fly to center from Stangota for a 7-0 lead.
The game ended in the bottom of the fifth, which began with a double to right center by Pelaez. Morrissey walked on a full count, and after each advanced on a stolen base, Jezorwski hit a sacrifice fly along the left field line for the mercy rule finish.
“We were nice and loose,” Griswold said. “It was our last tournament of the season, and we definitely wanted to go out with a win. I did well this weekend with my hitting. I punched everything and I used the whole field.”
As for Pelaez, he not only has memories of a fun year, but also a successful experiment on the final day.
“It’s kind of sad that there’s no more baseball until next year,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, and now I also have something to build on. This was a great season. We didn’t lose many games, and my teammates are good friends.”