By Rich Bevensee
Familiar faces, perhaps even neighborhood or classroom friends, but rivals to the end on the diamond.
That was the scenario when two teams from the same organization faced each other in the Spring Classic 13U championship game on Sunday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
NJ Rising Rebels coaches Andrew Mount and Matt Cecere guided their teams through the gauntlet of pool play and playoff semifinal games, only to see their friends in each other’s dugout.
“It’s definitely different,” Mount said. “We’ve been working together since the winter and I know all of those kids very well. It’s tough to compete against them for a championship but it’s definitely fun, too. It’s a lighter atmosphere.”
In the final, Jadon Krisanda scattered eight hits and two walks and struck out five over six innings while Will Sassman and Jonah Toubis collected two hits each to lead Mount’s Rebels past Cecere’s 2027 Rebels 9-5.
Brayden Fry, the leadoff man for Mount’s Rebels, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, both for his grit during pool play after getting nailed in the shin by a pitch in his very first at bat of the weekend, and for his inside-the-park, three-run home run which launched Mount’s Rebels past Titus Baseball Academy 2027 in the semifinals.
Mount’s crew, locked in a nip-and-tuck battle with Titus in the semis, led 5-4 with two on and none out in the bottom of the sixth when Fry ripped a booming shot to dead center. The ball skipped all the way to the fence while Fry galloped around the bases for some massive insurance runs en route to a 12-4 victory.
“Actually I was not sure, I thought it was going to be a triple. Then I got the sign to go all the way,” Fry said. “Winning a championship is amazing. We knew there’s a lot of good competition here, so we came out and played our best baseball. It’s our first tournament win of the season, and there’s more to come.”
Mount’s Rebels enjoyed quite the weekend. They defeated Totals Skills, Diamond Jacks Gold and Wladyka Baseball by a combined 38-3 in 13U pool play before taking out Titus in the semis.
As it turned out, Mount’s Rebels’ toughest competition of the weekend was Cecere’s Rebels.
“It wasn’t weird at all to play them. It was an awesome moment,” Cecere said. “We put a lot of work in throughout the weeks and we get them two practices a week typically. It’s nice to see everybody competing against each other on the field.”
Cecere’s Rebels also went undefeated until the final with a tremendous weekend run. They defeated the Morris County Cubs 3-0 and Power 5 Baseball 14-4 on Saturday, closed out pool play Sunday with a 3-1 verdict over PA Shockers Black, then knocked off the Diamond Jacks Super 13U squad 5-4 in the playoff semifinals.
In the championship game, Finn O’Loughlin and Will Sassman were in the middle of the first two rallies for Mount’s Rebels.
In the bottom of the first inning O’Loughlin was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring home the game’s first run, Sassman followed with an RBI single and Toubis had an RBI fielder’s choice for a 3-0 lead.
After Cecere’s Rebels scratched out a run in the top of the second on a fielding error, Mount’s crew piled on four more runs for a 7-1 lead after three innings. O’Loughlin ripped an RBI triple, Sassman followed with an RBI double, an error on a Kyle McBride grounder scored another run and Adnrew Young closed out the rally with an RBI single.
Much like their game against the Cubs, Cecere’s squad showed in the top of the fourth inning how they have a knack for manufacturing runs when Tyler Garetson drove in Nico West with a sacrifice fly.
Toubis struck again in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single for an 8-2 Mount’s Rebels lead.
This is where Cecere’s Rebels showed signs of a comeback. In the top of the fifth, his group cut their deficit to 8-5 when Gavin Raiz and Nico West earned bases-loaded walks and Luke Hall scored on a wild pitch.
To his credit, Krisanda escaped a major jam in that inning. With the bases full of Cecere’s Rebels and one out, he got a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat.
Holden Cohn, who entered the game in the fourth as a pinch-hitter, brought home the game’s final run in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single, boosting Mount’s Rebels lead to 9-5.
Krisanda was relieved in the seventh inning by Curt Friedrich, who allowed a pair of walks but slammed the door shut before any further damage was done.
For Cecere’s Rebels, Ryan Moumdjian pitched 2⅔ innings and allowed eight hits and three walks and struck out one. Garetson pitched 2⅓ innings and permitted two hits and two walks and struck out two. Gavin Toland closed out the game with a scoreless inning of work, yielding just one walk.