Justin Haag of RCBC Marucci Nationals was 2-for-2 with a walk and scored three runs.
By Sean Reilly
Justin Haag had it going in more ways than one on Friday morning, and it helped send the RCBC Marucci Nationals to a productive first day at the Easter Extravaganza 12U Tournament at Diamond Nation.
As the No. 3 hitter in the Staten Island team’s lineup, he was 2-for-2 with two doubles, a walk and three runs scored in a 12-1 opening triumph over Monmouth Liberty.
He also pitched, and threw a four-inning one-hitter with nine strikeouts (three looking) with no walks.
RCBC followed that win with a 2-1 decision over Tri-State Arsenal in its second game, to take 2-0 record into its final pool-play game against PS2 Athletics (1-1) on Saturday morning. The top two teams in the six-team field will play for the championship later in the day.
RCBC set the tone in its victory over Monmouth Liberty by scoring six times in the top of the first inning. The first run crossed on an error, Haag doubled to right field and scored on a bases loaded walk for a 2-0 lead, Joseph Spungin hit a sacrifice fly to right field and Jacob Yaverbaum delivered the big blow with a three-run home run.
“I wanted to stay relaxed, be on time, and just swing my hardest and be aggressive,” Haag said of his approach at the plate.
In the bottom of the inning, Haag struck out the side.
“Pitching with a lead is easier,” he said. “The start of the game got me more confident for the following innings to pitch my best.”
RCBC, which sent each of its 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, scored four more runs in the second, as Anthony Tepedino hit a three-run home run and Spungin singled across another.
Max Alweiss led off the second inning with a home run for Monmouth Liberty, but Haag retired the next nine batters to close out the game. He struck out six of the final seven batters, including all three in fourth and final inning.
“This was a good win to give us momentum, and now we’ll try win it all,” he said.
Haag consistently kept the Monmouth batters off balance by blending a fastball and effective curve.
“I was throwing a four-seam and curveball,” he said. “I have a good curveball and can throw either pitch, and it helped keep them off-balance.”
In addition to his home run, Tepedino was hit by a pitch, drew a walk and accounted for three runs. Spungin was 2-for-2 with three RBI.
Monmouth Liberty rebounded from the loss with an 11-3 win over 9ers Baseball Club. It will close out pool play against the Franklin Warriors, the other team among the six that won both of its contests on Friday.