Ralston, Penna boost DJacks Super 11U to Father’s Day Classic win

By DN WRITING STAFF | June 18, 2024

By Sean Reilly

Perhaps the most consistent thing about the Diamond Jacks Super 11U lineup is how, on any given weekend, any player can be a standout. 

Multiple players can also be the ones to emerge. And this weekend at Diamond Nation, it was Cooper Ralston and Nicholas Penna who sparked the team to the 11U Father’s Day Classic championship. 

Both were outstanding at the plate and on the mound, as the Diamond Jacks completed an unbeaten four-game tournament with a 10-2, five-inning win over the hard-hitting Rumson-Fair Haven Diamond Dawgs on Sunday night in Flemington. 

Penna had the pitching assignment in the final, and he responded by throwing a two-hitter, with four strikeouts and no walks against a Diamond Dawgs lineup that scored 39 runs in its first three games. He also went 2-for-3, with two doubles and two RBI. 

Ralston was 1-for-3 with two RBI in the final, and was 6-for-9 in the tournament. He had one of the best individual performances by any player this year at ‘The Nation’ in a 14-0 pool play victory, when he was 3-for-3 with a double, triple, home run and eight RBI, in addition to pitching a three-inning three-hitter.

Penna and Ralston were selected co-MVP’s of the tournament. 

The capper to it all was the win over the Diamond Dawgs. 

“It was fun because our team was hyped,” Penna said. “We had a good game because all of us were hitting, and I struck a couple of kids out, so that was pretty cool. I was trying to throw the pitches they weren’t expecting. They were sitting on the fastball, so I threw my slider a couple of times, and they swung and missed or grounded out. I tried to also get them off-balance a little bit with a slower pitch, to get them out as quick as possible to get us through the six innings.” 

When Rumson-Fair Haven put the ball in play, Penna could rely on his defense. Two players were particularly on-point: shortstop Brycen Davis and third baseman Christian Basile. 

“They did a great job,” Penna said. “It’s really fun to have them behind me and knowing the left side of the infield can make great plays.”

Cooper Ralston and Nick Penna of the DJacks Super 11U were named 11U Father’s Day Classic MVPs.

Ralston not only earned his first MVP award, he also hit his first home run with his monster effort earlier in the tournament.

“I had a lot of fun,” he said. “I almost hit for the cycle. It feels really good to win.” 

Ralston factored into the first run of the final. He singled with two out, moved to second on an error, and scored on Penna’s double to right field. 

The Diamond Jacks extended their lead to 5-0 with a four-run third. 

The inning began with a walk to catcher Santino Guidicipietro, and courtesy runner Scott Krempecke followed with two stolen bases. Carter Geary followed with a RBI single. After a walk to Chase Samuelson, Davis hit a RBI single to right field. With runners on second and third, Ralston reached on a ground ball throwing error that resulted in two runs and one RBI. 

Rumson-Fair Haven scored both of its runs in the fourth, as Nick Thoms and Christian Banchi both hit run-scoring doubles to left-center field. 

The Diamond Jacks, however, got both runs back in the bottom of the inning, after both Drew Novotny and Krempecke reached on singles before scoring on a hit to center from Guidicipietro. 

The game ended in the bottom of the fifth, with Davis hitting an RBI single, Penna adding an RBI double and J.J. Villanueva followed with an RBI single for the mercy rule finish.

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