Owen Rivenbark left, and Owen Ehrenkranz combined for 12 shutout innings for the Super 13 squad.
By Rich Bevensee
In the Diamond Jacks Super 13U dugout on Saturday, “O” came to have a couple different meanings.
“O” could stand for Owen, or to be more precise, the two boys named Owen who spearheaded Diamond Jacks pitching on Saturday.
Or O could really be a numerical 0, as in all the zeroes both boys helped post on the scoreboard. Eleven innings worth, to be precise.
Either way, it was a decidedly quiet morning for the bats of the Diamond Jacks’ opponents, thanks in large part to Owen Rivenbark and Owen Ehrenkranz. The two right-handers helped the Diamond Jacks sweep two pool play games on Saturday, following a 1-0 victory over U.S. 9 Prospects and an 8-0 decision over Centercourt Young Guns in the 13U bracket of the Spring Classic at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Having these guys throw strikes was incredible for us because the last few tournaments we’ve been struggling to throw strikes,” Diamond Jacks coach Matt Markiewicz said.
The Diamond Jacks (2-0) have one pool play game remaining, against FS Prime on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. The semifinals begin at 4:30 p.m.
Centercourt (0-2) and U.S. 9 (0-2) will face off in both teams’ final pool play game on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
Ehrenkranz allowed three hits and one walk while striking out five against the Young Guns of Marlboro, N.J. He retired the first six batters he faced, then escaped jams in the third and fourth innings when the Young Guns had runners in scoring position.
“I just moved over to my two-seam as my main pitch so I’m just working with two-seams and sliders, sometimes my splitter,” Ehrenkranz said. “Unlike my last couple of starts, I got my slider in there for strikes. This was my best outing so far because I controlled the zone a lot more today. That’s something I’ve been working on, that if I control the zone, I control the game.”
Jason Baker doubled and scored twice for the Diamond Jacks. Gino Spigarelli singled, walked and scored twice. Matt Filaci roped a two-run single and scored once, and Rivenbark and T.J. Dally each added an RBI single in support of Ehrenkranz.
“Owen (Ehrenkranz) was phenomenal today,” Markiewicz said. “To see him throw like that was awesome, because the last couple weekends he hasn’t had his best stuff. So for him to come out here and get that real big confidence boost and being able to throw strikes and pound the zone was huge.
“Overall we like that bulldog mentality in him. He’s a guy that has electric stuff, with a good fastball and good spin on his breaking ball. He’s just gotta be able to challenge in the zone and he did a great job of that today.”
Against the U.S. 9 Prospects, Rivenbark pitched five shutout innings before Nick McCabe came on to throw two more scoreless frames and polish off a one-hitter. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when Dally had a leadoff single and later scored on a balk.
The Prospects game was the first start this season for Rivenbark, who made a few appearances in relief this season before Saturday.
“Last week in our tournament I was supposed to pitch on Sunday but it got rained out and canceled, so I got to start today,” Rivenbark said. “I used a lot of fastballs and sliders today, with a changeup here and there. My slider was really working today which was good because my last few outings it hasn’t been too good.”
Markiewicz was asked why Rivenbark started on Saturday when he’s been so effective in relief thus far this season.
“He likes 8 a.m. games,” Markiewicz said. “He likes throwing in the morning, and any player who wants to throw at 8 a.m., by all means, go.
“He’s always been a guy who I’ve wanted to use as a starter but I’ve had to use him earlier in pool play games as a reliever, so it worked out this weekend where I could get him a start.”