Raymond’s return bolsters Super 14U in pool play opener

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 29, 2022

Djack Cole Raymond delivered a two-run single in his first at bat after rehabbing a knee injury.

By Rich Bevensee

Four months ago Cole Raymond’s chance to begin the baseball season on time was wrecked due to suffering a meniscus injury during a middle school basketball game. To say he was dejected and bitter doesn’t begin to describe his mental state after this setback rocked his world.

On Saturday afternoon he was studying the Diamond Jacks Super 14U starting lineup which coach Mike Buckelew posted on the dugout wall just moments earlier. Raymond’s reward for enduring four months of pain, frustration and rehab was getting his name back into the lineup for the first time this spring – batting ninth and playing right field. 

Facing a full count in his first at bat of the season, Raymond slapped a fastball into right-center field for an opposite field, two-run single, the big blow in his team’s decisive six-run first inning. 

“Today I saw I was hitting ninth on the roster and I said to myself, I’m back now! Then I got up there and did what I had to do,” said Raymond, one of many contributors to a five-inning, 10-2 Diamond Jacks victory over Baseball Warehouse Indians 2026 Black on the second day of the four-day Memorial Day Blast at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“This feels fantastic,” said Raymond, a rising Immaculata freshman. “I’m excited to get into more games now. Before I batted I felt really excited but I was also confident because I’ve been here before and I know what to do.”

Raymond was one of five Diamond Jacks who drove in runs. Alex Schwark, a freshman-to-be at Summit High, went 2 for 2 with a double, a walk, three RBI and a run scored. Alex Famolari went 1 for 2 with a walk, two RBI and three runs scored. 

Keith Mann was 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored, and Luke Borgman was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored. 

“In getting to their ace, a lefty who throws hard for a 14-year old, we knew we had to get ahead and cause havoc. We did that in the first,” Buckelew said. “We were locked in.”

Facing hard-throwing Indians lefty Robert Roma, whose fastball was topping out in the low-80s, seven of 11 Super Jacks reached base at least once and six of them scored.

“We get excited when we face the big arms because that’s what we work for, the big moments against the good arms,” Schwark said. “Once we saw we could jump on him we didn’t take our foot off the gas pedal. When one guy does it (gets a base hit), you get more confident in yourself.”

DJacks righty Brandon Lall made sure his teammates’ offensive surge was not wasted. He pitched a complete-game four-hitter with two walks, a hit batsman and four strikeouts. He didn’t allow an Indians hit until the fourth inning and carried a shutout into the fifth.

Lall also chipped in for one of the Super 14U’s three defensive gems, picking a runner off second base in the fourth inning. 

In the fifth, the Indians’ Harold Denney tried to score from first on a Chris Joy RBI double to left but was cut down at home, as Schwark, the Diamond Jacks left fielder, relayed to shortstop Jack Markovich, who rifled home to catcher Matt Baker for the putout. 

The final out of the game came when Lall uncorked a wild pitch and Baker quickly retrieved the ball from the backstop and flipped it to Lall at home to nail Sebastian Saracino.

Diamond Jack Super 14U’s Brandon Lall fires away during his complete game four-hitter in Memorial Day Blast pool play.

The 5-10, 140-pound Raymond didn’t make a play in right field in his spring debut, but that was more due to Lall’s workmanship on the hill. 

The real measure of Raymond’s impact on the game, however, was his mere presence on the field, something he did not think possible in January, when he rammed into a basketball teammate going for a steal and tore the meniscus in his left knee.

“I was shocked when I first heard it was a meniscus tear. I thought it was a little pull. I thought I just hyperextended it,” Raymond said. 

Surgery to repair the meniscus – cartilage in the knee which cushions and stabilizes the joint, and protects the bones from wear and tear – took place two weeks later, and that was followed by months of agonizing rehabilitation. 

Progress wasn’t happening fast enough for the young ballplayer.

“I was in physical therapy three times a week, and I was working out, lifting… It was brutal,” Raymond said. “I kept working, working, working, and I was seeing results, but I kept feeling like I wasn’t getting better because I wasn’t back on the field yet. Definitely frustrating.”

Raymond said when he was feeling his lowest, one of his biggest sources of inspiration was his father, Mike, who won more than 300 games and three state championships in 16 seasons as the head coach at nearby Hunterdon Central. The elder Raymond is now a coach in the Diamond Jacks program. 

“My dad definitely gave me a mental boost because I was down and he was there for me and he’d talk me through everything,” Raymond said. “He told me I was working hard in PT and once I got back I was going to be better than I was before I got hurt.”

Raymond took another step forward in his comeback when Buckelew handed him the ball to start in the Super Jacks’ Saturday evening contest against Whiz Kids 14U Futures. 

In a limited role as a precaution, Raymond threw 30 pitches and allowed two earned runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 1⅓ innings in the Diamond Jacks’ eventual 16-2 victory.

While progress on the field may come slow at first, the fact that Raymond is back in uniform makes the Super 14U a more complete team. His presence was not lost on Buckelew, who mentioned that Saturday’s game was his team’s first with a full healthy roster. 

“First game back, first live at bat and he comes up in a big spot and with two strikes he ropes a ball into the right-center gap. That’s the approach, he stayed into it,” Buckelew said. “Happy to have him back.”

“Well, I’m definitely giving up basketball,” Raymond said with a smile. “I just want to keep going, going, going. I want to get more at bats and get on the mound more. I’m definitely excited to get back out.”

The Super 14U squad faces 2026 U.S. Elite Mid-Atlantic at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, and Trumbull Travel Baseball Black on Monday at 4:30 p.m. to complete pool play.

Prior to its loss to the Diamond Jacks, Baseball Warehouse defeated the Diamond Jacks Gold 14U, 2-1. The Indians complete pool play with an 8:30 p.m. contest on Sunday against the Heavy Hitters, and a 4 p.m. Monday showdown with the Philly Bandits 14U.

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