Pineiro, Jr. steers Jersey Storm 14U to April Fool’s crown

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 10, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

Eddie Pineiro, Jr. just returned from an outstanding performance in the Dominican Republic and was prepared to show New Jersey baseball fans what they had missed.

Anthony Huaranga, a former Diamond Jack, took the mound for the Jersey Storm and was hungry to show his former teammates what they were missing.

Together, they led an onslaught for which Diamond Jacks Super 14U had no answer.

Pineiro, Jr. was one of six Storm batters with at least one RBI, Huaranga tormented the Diamond Jacks by allowing one run over three innings, and the Storm claimed their first tournament title of the season with a commanding 14-2, four-inning triumph in the 14U April Fool’s Tournament finale on Sunday evening at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

Both teams entered the final with exceptional credentials. In its tournament debut, the Storm was 4-0 and outscored their opponents 43-8. The Diamond Jacks, which won the Spring Invitational three weeks earlier, were also 4-0 with a 37-4 scoring differential. 

But Storm coach Nigel Archibald said he was not surprised by the lopsided outcome in the final. The Storm entered the season ranked No. 1 in New Jersey in a preseason 14U poll released by The Diamond Jacks, ranked 15th, suffered their first loss of the spring. 

“I don’t want to be cocky but we work hard and we know how to score runs,” Archibald said. “The Diamond Jacks are a good team with good coaches, and they have good kids who work hard, so I’m always ready to compete with them. But I’m happy we came out with the victory.”

Eddie Pineiro, Jr. of Jersey Storm 14U was named 14U April Fool’s MVP.

Pineiro, Jr., named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, had a two-run triple, walked twice and scored three times in the final. For the weekend Pineiro, Jr. went 5-for-6 with a double, two triples and four walks. 

It was Pineiro’s second MVP honor in as many tournaments. He represented Puerto Rico in the WBSC U15 World Cup 2024 Americas Qualifier Championship last month in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. He not only led Puerto Rico to the championship in a 5-4 victory over the Dominican Republic, he was named MVP as well. For the series he batted .636 with a triple, three RBI and six runs scored. 

Puerto Rico’s victory assured that Pineiro, Jr. and company will compete in the 15U World Cup, Aug. 16-25 in Barranquilla, Colombia.

“Coming into the season I was focused on being consistent – throwing strikes, getting runs in, not being selfish and making plays,” Pineiro, Jr. said. “Getting the MVP early in the season and coming back from a good tournament in the DR is great for my confidence. I was surprised to get MVP because everybody was good.”

Huaranga, who played in the Diamond Jacks system in his 11-12 season, allowed a single run against his old mates in the first inning but kept them at bay after that. He stranded three Diamond Jacks runners in scoring position over the next two frames. 

Huaranga, a 6-1 righty, allowed three hits and four walks and struck out seven.

“There’s a reason why he’s regarded as one of the top 25 under-14 players in the country,” Archibald said. “He’s a big-time pitcher, one of the best in New Jersey. When he’s on the bump he throws strikes and competes, and he’s hard to beat.”

David Rojas was nearly as feisty as Huaranga on the mound over the final two innings. He chalked a 1-2-3 fourth inning before allowing one run on three hit batters in the fifth. His fourth strikeout ended the game. 

The entire Storm lineup gave the Diamond Jacks fits, as all 12 batters reached base at least once and eight of them scored. Adriel Huertas was 2-for-2 with a walk and four RBI, Michael Murphy had two hits and two RBI, and No. 12 batter Keith Pimental was 3-for-3 with an RBI. 

“We had tremendous two-strike hitting all day. That’s how you win games,” Archibald said.

The Storm put the Diamond Jacks on their heels from the outset, chalking up a flour-run first inning. Huertas’ two-run single was the big blow in that inning.

The Diamond Jacks countered with a run in the bottom of the first as leadoff man Luca Catanzarite tripled to center and scored on a wild pitch. 

That was all the scoring the hosts would enjoy until the final inning, while the Storm continued to pad its lead. 

In the top of the third, Pineiro, Jr. lasered a two-run triple to right-center. Three batters later a controversial two-out call cost the Diamond Jacks two more runs. Huertas dropped a bloop just behind the pitcher’s mound that Diamond Jacks second baseman Gavin Ross appeared to catch for the third out of the inning, but the field umpire ruled the ball was trapped and not caught, and Pineiro, Jr. scored on the play. Jayden Beriguette added an RBI single for an 8-1 lead before the Diamond Jacks could retire the side. 

The Storm salted the game away in the fifth by scoring six runs on just two hits, a two-run single by Murphy and a Pimental RBI single. Four walks, an error and a hit batsman fueled the rally in which Arnav Vega had a sacrifice fly, Huertas forced in a run with a bases loaded walk, and Beriguette had an RBI groundout.

The Diamond Jacks managed just one more run when Anthony Whelan, Catanzarite and Gino Spigarelli were all hit by a pitch in three straight at bats in the fifth, and Whelan raced home on a throwing error.

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