By Sean Reilly
The RCBC Ghost Americans 12U are masters at putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard at Diamond Nation.
It’s also no coincidence that the team from Staten Island frequently goes back home from Flemington with championship hardware.
RCBC returned to ‘The Nation’ over the weekend to compete at the Super 12 Invitational, minus a few of the players who’ve helped the team achieve big-time success so far in 2023.
The absences didn’t matter, since the team returned home with another championship after beating Canes NJ 12U, 11-5, in the Sunday afternoon final.
The RCBC Ghost Americans went 5-0 on the weekend, scoring 11 runs in three of its wins and nine in the two others.
It was also the team’s third championship in five Diamond Nation events this year, having won the April Fools and King of the Diamond championships earlier. It also went 2-0 at the Williams Harley Davidson Tournament before the remainder of that tournament was rained out. RCBC also finished first in its pool before falling in the playoffs at the Spring Fever Tournament.
The result of it all is a 20-1 record this year at Diamond Nation, with double-figure run totals in 16 of those victories.
“After we get hits, it keeps giving us momentum,” said catcher Nick Bianco, who was named tournament MVP after capping an extraordinary hitting weekend by going 2-for-3 with two home runs in the final, along with making an important defensive play.
His Herman Munster-like numbers for the weekend included a dozen hits, including five home runs and two doubles. Leo Durocher will be calling shortly.
“I like playing here,” Bianco said. “I like playing on turf, and I think the turf helps us hitting and defensively.”
RCBC totaled nine hits, four of them home runs, in the championship game. But getting to the final was an accomplishment in itself, after it had to rally twice, including from a 5-0 deficit in the fourth inning and an 8-5 hole in the sixth, to gain a 9-8 win over Dodgers Nation from Long Island in the playoff semifinals.
In that game, Bianco hit a three-run homer for a 5-5 tie in the fifth, and Richie Rainero won the game with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth.
Matched up against an offensively potent Canes team in the final which immediately followed, RCBC fell behind in the top of the first. Canes leadoff man Eric Marano walked, stole second, moved to third on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly from Cihan Paso.
RCBC countered immediately in the bottom of the inning. Luca Scarangello led off with a walk and stole second. After a strikeout, Rainero walked on a full count. Bianco then hit his fourth home run of the tourney for a 3-1 lead.
The Canes got one run back in the third, when Ryan Park led off with a home run to right field.
Bianco came up again in the bottom of the inning, and he once again homered, this one a solo shot over the fence in left center, for a 4-2 lead.
The Canes tied the game in the top of the fourth. Paso hit a long home run that cleared the left side of the Field 2 scoreboard in right field with one out, and Ryan Depp went deep with two out.
RCBC then responded with a five-run bottom of the inning that broke the game open.
Sal Iacono led off with a single. After a pitching change, he advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Aldo Ramovic.
Following a walk to Thomas Mogielnicki, Louis Ramovic dropped down his second bunt single. Aldo Ramovic tried to score, and would have been out at the plate, but he generated a rundown instead. He then scored on a bad throw for a 6-4 lead. That left two runners aboard for Scarangello, who hit a three-run home run to right field for a 9-4 advantage.
The Canes had runners on second and third with one out and the top of its order up in the fifth, but the lead runner tried to score on a wild pitch and was out after Bianco retrieved the ball behind the plate and flipped to pitcher Tyler Bassett for a successful tag. Marano then hit an RBI single for the Canes, but Bassett struck out the next batter to keep the lead at 9-5.
RCBC closed out the scoring in the bottom of the inning after Santino Yulfo led off with a walk and Jake Rugg followed with a home run to center field.