Nico West of Rising Rebels 13U had an extra-base hit during his team’s win over Power 5 13U.
By Rich Bevensee
Winning tight ball games when runs are scarce isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and neither is scoring a bunch of runs to claim victory when chinks begin to show in the pitching armor.
The NJ Rising Rebels 2027 squad learned these lessons first hand on Saturday and showed why they will be a measured force to contend with as the spring creeps closer to summer.
Shane Varneckas got the Rebels rolling on Saturday by pitching six shutout innings in a 3-0 victory over the Morris County Cubs White in the afternoon.
Ryan “Moums” Moumdjian got the offense chugging in the Rebs’ evening contest, swatting a pair of triples and knocking in two runs in a four-inning, 14-4 decision over Power 5 Baseball in their second pool play game of the 13U Spring Classic.
Not a bad way to battle the constant rains which drenched the Diamond Nation complex in Flemington and put your stamp on the weekend.
“We tried to play good defense in the first game because when you do, you only need a couple runs to win,” Moumdjian said. “But in the second game we tried to hit better because you can definitely win games that way as well.”
So the Rebels alternated between scratching out runs where every at bat mattered, and putting together an effort where they scored 14 runs on 14 hits – including four for extra bases – and seven of 11 players in the lineup notched a base hit.
“I think our team realized what we needed and we just fixed it,” Varneckas said. “We had some really good at bats and kept hustling around the bases.”
Even when the Rebels allowed four walks and a hit batsman in the second game while Power 5 briefly crawled back into the contest to make it a two-run game, Rebel pitchers Andrew Summa and Silas Gigel held Power 5 in check, yielding just two base hits.
“We’re really trying to instill how to play the game of baseball,” said Cecere, a first-year baseball manager who played catcher for Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison. “I think the big thing is the attitude they bring every single time and being a team of confidence. The mental side of it is 90 percent and the physical side is only 10 percent, and they did everything right mentally today.
“I tell them all the time the team which makes the most plays wins the game. And they made the most plays hitting in one game, and the most plays in the field and pitching in another. So we are really proud that they got it done in both.”
Varneckas allowed six hits and four walks and had one strikeout in his stellar outing against the Cubs while the Rebels offense began to click late, scoring twice in the top of the fifth inning and once more in the seventh. Luke Hall slammed the door with a shutout frame in relief, permitting a hit and a walk and striking out one.
“I thought my control was pretty good, and Coach Matt likes to talk about pounding the zone. We just go after batters,” Varneckas said. “My curveball was working well. They were hitting it but it was just ground balls, hitting to contact. I felt good from the beginning.”
Varneckas, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, was quick to heap praise on his defense which provided two double plays.
“We were in some big spots and our fielders came up big, made a lot of tough plays,” Varneckas said. “I just kept pitching strikes and that’s what happens when we pitch strikes and we field well – a good shutout game.”
In the evening contest against Power 5, Moumdjian, Tyler Garetson and Nico West each collected at least one extra base hit for the Rebels, which bombarded the opponent with five runs in the first inning, four in the third inning and five more runs in the fourth.
“We tried to change our approach by going the other way and really sitting back. We were out in front a lot in the first game, ” said Moumdjian, who had two triples, walked once, drove in two runs and scored three times against Power 5. “We kind of woke up and realized we needed to hit the ball to win the game and it worked out for us.”
Garetson was 3 for 3 with a double, three RBI and three runs. West went 2 for 2 with a double, a walk, an RBI and three runs scored.
Ted Magino was 3 for 3 with two RBI, Hall went 2 for 3, Summa had a two-run single, Gavin Toland added an RBI single, and Gigel had an RBI groundout.
“I think the big thing for us was we didn’t try to do too much, just get on base and keep it rolling,” Moumdjian said. “Getting walks, getting singles, and some kids getting bigger hits like doubles and triples.”
Summa pitched 3⅔ innings against Power 5, allowing one hit and four walks and striking out three. Gigel came on with bases loaded and two out in the fourth and gave up a single, a walk and a hit batter before getting the final out.
For Power 5, Dylan McKegney had an RBI groundout and Joss Grones cracked a two-run single in the top of the third inning to bring their team to within 5-3. Dominic Kennedy forced home a run with a bases-loaded walk in the fourth.
The Rising Rebels were to play the PA Shockers Black on Sunday in one more pool play game before the four-team playoffs begin. Power 5, which lost to the Shockers 8-1 on Saturday afternoon, was to play the Morris County Cubs White on Sunday.
The top four seeds meet in the semifinals at 2:15 p.m., and the championship game is slated for 4:30 p.m.